By Innocent Mbunwe
Barely 14 days to the Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations, which kicks-off on January 20, the Indomitable Lions are presently camping in Burkina Faso not Kenya as earlier planned, due to unrest after the country's presidential elections.
Otto Pfister: Visualising CAN 2008?
Head Coach, Otto Pfister, made public a provisional list of 27 players
at the end of a training camp that started January 4. A final list of
23 players will be selected for the jamboree.
Pfister's list is made up of 4 goalkeepers, 9 defenders, 10 midfielders and 5 attackers.
Amongst the 28-man list, 13 players took part in the just ended friendly encounter between the Lions and a Galice selection that ended 1-1.Amognst the list three Olympic Lions players have featured and the surprise is that the Coach called up the Arsenal lad, Alexandre Song and Valery Mezague.
The million-dollar question now is which criteria did the technical bench use in selecting these players? But according to some soccer pundits, the selection is the best, because according to them most of the players called up are regulars in their clubs.
The squad has been spiced with some young and energetic players who will replace the old players that are ageing. Will Cameroon win its 5th Nations cup Title? Pfister with about three decades of African soccer experience is doing everything in Burkina Faso to right the wrongs of the team.
In spite of
the Lions past glories, priding itself with four Nations Cup titles,
fears are rife that they may not perform well at the competition. On
the other hand, some posit that the team that has many unknown names
and recent mediocre record may surprise many. Already, Ivory Coast,
Nigeria, Mali and Ghana have been tipped favourites.
Below is a profile of the 27 pre-selected players.
Rigobert Bahanack Song is Lions skipper and defender for Turkish club side Galatasaray. Born in Nkanglicock, Cameroon, in 1976, Song is the oldest Lion in the squad. Song has registered 108 appearances with the Lions and becomes the most capped player in Cameroon history.
Also, in the 2006 African Cup of Nations, Rigobert broke the record for the greatest number of matches played at the CAF African Cup of Nations. Exuding a strong sense of patriotism, he has hardly declined defending the national colours.
The 32-year-old is a robust and aggressive player who has checked some of the best attackers in the world. He has played in most of the top clubs in Europe. He is prone to bookings and is also ageing. Song is also the uncle of fellow footballer Alexandre Song who plays for Arsenal F.C.
Geremi Sorele Njitap Fotso, who was born in Bafoussam some 30 years ago, currently captains Newcastle United of the Premier League after joining from Chelsea in a three-year contract. His father, Samuel, was a former footballer and played internationally and with the Indomitable Lions in the 1970s.
Due to his exploits in the national team, his father was allowed to marry as many times as he wanted and consequently he has five wives. Geremi himself has nineteen siblings. Prior to joining Chelsea in 2003, Geremi played with Real Madrid and Middlesbrough. He is devoted and his free kick knack is an advantage for the Lions. He played for Racing Bafoussam before going international.
Samuel Eto'o Fils is striker for Spanish club, Barcelona. Born in 1981 in Nkon, in the Littoral Province of Cameroon, he has won so many awards in his career. His darting prowess makes him a goal merchant. He is a good dribbler too. He is a versatile player who, in addition to being a prolific scorer, is also known for his playmaking and defence.
The striker is good at inter-positional passes and commands the attack
line from both flanks. A fidgety striker, Eto'o's presence in the
18-metre box attracts a battery of defence men, creating openings for
other attackers to score for the Lions. Just recovering from another
surgery he is already scoring goals for his club.
Idriss Carlos Kameni
Carlos Idriss Kameni was born on February 18, 1984 in Douala and plays for RCD Espanyol, Spain. Kameni is known to be an excellent penalty-stopper with great reactions. Not only that, he reads the ball tremendously with very few mistakes being made which is hard to come across in a goalkeeper.
At the age of just sixteen, he became the
youngest footballer to win an Olympic gold medal. Kameni is first
choice goalkeeper for his club, Espanyol. He is highly rated in Europe
and he earned the award of the best African Goalkeeper of 2006/07.
Jean II Makoun, 22, is a daring midfielder who plays for Lille, France. His ball control and juggling ability makes him a regular in his club. Makoun scores once in a while for Lille, but is still to engrave his name on the Lions' goal chart. Makoun has been likened to some big clubs like Manchester.
Souleymanou Hamidou, is keeper for Turkish side Denizlispor. Born in 1973, Souleymanou's 1.82m height gives him an edge over undersized attackers. His composure and good sense of judgment makes him a sound keeper. His ability to control his defence men is an advantage.
Idriss Carlos Kameni
Carlos Idriss Kameni was born on February 18, 1984 in Douala and plays for RCD Espanyol, Spain. Kameni is known to be an excellent penalty-stopper with great reactions. Not only that, he reads the ball tremendously with very few mistakes being made which is hard to come across in a goalkeeper. At the age of just sixteen, he became the youngest footballer to win an Olympic gold medal. Kameni is first choice goalkeeper for his club, Espanyol. He is highly rated in Europe and he earned the award of the best African Goalkeeper of 2006/07.
Alain Nkong born April 6, 1979 in Yaounde is a midfielder who plays for Atlante in Mexico. Early in his career, Nkong played all over the world, including Las Palmas in Spain, Nacional in Uruguay, and FC Paços de Ferreira in Portugal. He has represented Cameroon on various youth levels and appeared with the full national team in qualifiers for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Nkong is the first African player to win a league title in Mexico in Apertura 2007 with Atlante. He is a good dribbler and makes superb long-range passes.
Mohammadou Idrissou, 28, currently plays for MSV Duisburg in the German Bundesliga. Idrissou, who was very instrumental for the Lions qualification to Ghana 2008, is a striker. The soaring and dawdling attacker is a torn in the flesh of defenders when it comes to running. He played for Racing Bafoussam and Cotonsport of Garoua before going international.
Modeste Mbami Mbami, plays for French club Marseille. Born in 1982, the midfielder is one of former coach, Schafer's extraordinary players, but he was not eye-catching to Artur Jorge and Arie Haan, but has been called by Otto Pfister. Mbami who is seen by many Mbami is a physically strong player with good technical skills. He started his career with Dynamo Douala, but was quickly spotted by French club, Sedan.
Pierre Romain Owono Ebéde, 28, is a goalkeeper who plays for FC Metz. Ebede went to Greece during the 1998 summer transfer window. He stayed there until January 2002, when his services were hired. He is known for his very good reflexes. During his first season in Greece, he saw all 30 games from the bench, behind starting goalkeeper. Ebede was dismissed from Panathinaikos on 31st May 2007 and later joined Metz. Since joining Metz he has played in several matches including a UEFA appearance, in which his team won, and 2 league matches resulting in a draw and a win for the club.
Gilles Augustin Binya
Gilles Augustin Binya, 24, midfielder plays for Benfica, Portugal after a three-year spell at Algerian side, MC Oran. While playing for Benfica in the UEFA Champions' League in October 2007, Binya was shown a straight red card following a horrible challenge on Celtic's Scott Brown. On the 16th of November, UEFA gave him a six-match ban. The young, speedy and tireless player could mesmerise any opponent with his tactical skills. He has got a good sense of ball possession.
Timothée Essama Atouba, is defender for SV Hamburg, Germany. Born in 1982, Atouba joined Hamburg from Tottenham, England. He is a polyvalent, could play in the defence, midfield and outside left. Atouba is a dangerous left-footed player who takes delight in dribbling the ball past his opponents with ease. He can, from time to time, unleash a thunderbolt that could surprise any keeper.
Benoît Christian Angbwa Ossoemeyang was born on January 1, 1982, and is a defender. He plays for FC Saturn Moscow Oblast. He was a member of the Lions 2006 African Nations Cup team. His knack for accelerating with the ball upfront is a plus. Angbwa played for Fovu of Baham before going International.
Joël Landry Tsafack N'Guemo, born November 28, 1985 in Yaounde, is a midfielder who plays professional football with AS Nancy, France. Landry exudes relentless tackling skills. His passes are accurate. His professionalism could steer the team to a comfortable finish as he constantly supplies the attack line.
Bill Tchato, 33, plays for the Q-League outfit, Qatar S.C. He played for the Lions at the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 African Nations Cup. Born in M'Biam, he spent much of his childhood in Europe due to his parents working at the Cameroonian Embassy in Paris, then in London. His ability to puncture menacing incursions from opponents is a plus.
Alexandre Song Billong born September 9, 1987 is a midfielder for Arsenal of the English Premier League. He is the nephew of captain Rigobert Song. He normally plays central midfielder, but has featured as a central defender during the 2007-08 season. His unique hairstyle has won the 2007 "Rastafari Hairstyle of the Year" award. He has played
Janvier Charles Mbarga
Janvier Charles Mbarga, born September 27, 1985 in Yaounde, is a goalkeeper and the only home-based player in the squad. Currently, he is the keeper of Yaounde-based team, Canon of Yaounde.
Paul Hervé Essola Tchamba, was born in Douala in 1984 and plays for Arsenal Kyiv, Ukraine. He is a midfielder and has a dual nationality; Cameroon/French. He has played for the Under-23 Lions and is a tireless and robust player.
Joseph Désire Job
Joseph Désire Job is striker for French club, Nice. Job has become a constant tormentor to defence men, with his tremulous and good sense of positioning. He could make the difference at any given moment. The unassuming attacker, who combines ebullience and oomph up front, hopes to bring glory to the Lions.
Christian Bekamenga, plays for Indonisia club, Persib Bandung. He is a striker and is renown for his heading prowess. He helped the Olympic Lions to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games billed for Beijing, China. His swift and speedy skills are an advantage.
Alain Junior Olle Olle
Alain Junior Olle Olle plays for Club National, Uruguay, as a midfielder. The 22-year-old was born in Douala and is reputed for his good ball tackling and winning skills. Olle Olle can play in different midfield positions. His aggressive style makes him prone to bookings. He at times gives the ball away. He is not great at holding possession.
Bertin Tomou Bayard was born in 1978 in Bafoussam. As a striker he currently plays for Excelsior Mouscron, Belgium. Tomou started his career at PWD Bamenda, and left for East Asia in 1997. He played in South Korea and China before moving over to Europe where he played for Stade Brest 29 in Ligue 2, France and now Belgium. His abrasive play style could have caught the eye of Pfister.
Alexis Enam Mendomo
Alexis Enam Mendomo plays for Club Africain of Tunisia. The defender is a magnificent player. With his scintillating crosses and free kick skill. He is new in the Lions den and would want to make an impression in the squad.
Valery Mezague, born December 8, 1983 in Marseille, France is a midfielder, and currently plays for French club Le Havre. He continues to improve though in 2003, he was involved in a serious car crash, which ruled him out of the game for months. Mezague played with the Lions when Schafer was head coach, but failed to make any impact.
Stéphane Mbia Etoundi, 22, born in Yaounde is a defensive midfielder and currently plays for French club Stade Rennais. Mbia is also capable of filling in at right back. He is a good dribbler and makes superb long-range passes. He played for Kadji Sports Academy, KSA, before going international.
Defender André Stéphane Bikey Amugu, 23, was born in Douala and can play in the centre defence or at right back. He is currently playing for Reading in the English Premier League. He started his professional career at Espanyol in Spain and left for Russia before going to England. His tact, experience and heading capability is a plus for the Lion's squad.
Joël Dieudonné Martin Epalle, born February 20, 1978 is a striker and stated his career with Union Douala before moving over to Greece where he played for three clubs. He later left for Germany where VfL Bochum hired his services in January 2007 for a three-year deal. Epalle was part of the 2000 Olympic Games squad and at the 2002 World Cup. He is a cousin to Timothée Atouba, and is well built and agile upfront.
Achille Emana Edzimbi, 28, is an attacking midfielder playing for Toulouse FC, France. He is a highly skilled and versatile playmaker. He was a member of the 2006 Nations Cup team that got eliminated at the quarterfinals by Ivory Coast. Emana has a knack for long shots at goal.