Worst WC for Lions
Coach says he is leaving after admitting to mistakes
CAPE TOWN — An utterly dejected Cameroon went home without a single World Cup point yesterday, after a campaign marred by a bitter selection row with their coach and a failure to live up to the billing as Africa’s best team at the tournament.
Boasting one of the world’s best forwards in Samuel Eto’o and a long World Cup pedigree, expectations were high that Cameroon could progress from a group featuring Netherlands, Japan and Denmark.
But this, their sixth World Cup, has turned out to be the worst ever for the 1990 quarter-finalists, who lost all three group games and were left rueing their terrible luck after failing to find a winning touch despite some spirited football.
“We are very, very disappointed. The team did play well, but we didn’t win,” a downcast midfielder Alexandre Song told reporters.
His absence from a disastrous opening game against Japan alongside that of seasoned defenders Geremi and Rigobert Song caused friction between players and coach Paul Le Guen, who later restored him and Geremi to his line-up against Denmark.
Despite taking an early lead, Cameroon conceded two goals to the Scandinavians and became the first African team to exit the tournament, with only a meaningless, but potentially face-saving tie left against Netherlands. That game ended in a 2-1 defeat. The dye had been cast with a 1-0 loss to Japan, however, the supposed whipping boys of the group, which stunned Cameroon and triggered open revolt.
Le Guen, who joined as Cameroon coach in July 2009, managed to turn around the Indomitable Lions’ stuttering World Cup campaign. But his squad featured an uneasy mix of young yet inexperienced talent and fading but influential veterans.
“Maybe I didn’t succeed in unifying the team and bringing the team together … perhaps I made mistakes in the squad of 23 I chose,” Le Guen said, adding he would be leaving his post.
Midfielder Achille Emana openly questioned Le Guen’s choices saying young players were being asked to do too much.
Captain Eto’o, three times Africa’s footballer of the year, was also much less effective than normal after playing in a deeper role against Japan.
“A lot of things need changing,” Stephane Mbia told Reuters after the Netherlands game, adding at times there had been a difficult atmosphere.
“I think we played very well, but we had some very bad luck.” — Reuters.
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