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Indomitable Lions carry heavy weight of nation’s expectations

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In Yaounde, Cameroon

After losing 1-0 to Switzerland in their World Cup opener, Cameroon fought back from two goals down to secure a draw against Serbia, keeping last 16 qualification hopes alive.

Luckily, the Indomitable Lions have one game left. Unluckily, though, they have to play, and must win, over top-ranked Brazil in the last Group G game of the ongoing tournament in Qatar tonight to mathematically qualify for the knockout stages.

Brazil, five-time world champions, have won their first two games – against Serbia and Switzerland, and have already qualified for the knockout stage of the tournament.

They will be hoping to go all the way and clinch their sixth World Cup.

With just a point from two matches, Cameroon, who are ranked 43, must, therefore, beat Brazil and also pray for a ‘favourable’ outcome in the other Group ‘G’ game between group runners-up, Switzerland and bottom-placed Serbia who are also in dire need of victory like Cameroon.

Like in 2010 and 2014, Cameroon’s World Cup camp has again been tainted with dressing room and on the pitch disagreements.

The Indomitable Lions played their second group match without first choice goalkeeper, Inter Milan’s Andre Onana, who was booted out of the squad following what is understood to be disagreement with coach Rigobert Song. The coach has been heavily criticised for wrong substitutions during Cameroon’s 0-1 defeat to Switzerland.

In a letter upholding the coach’s decision to exclude Onana, the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) said the 26-year-old shot stopper had been temporarily suspended from the group “for disciplinary reasons.”

“The Cameron Football Federation reiterates its full support to the head coach and his entire staff as they implement the Federation’s policy aimed at preserving discipline, solidarity, complementarity and cohesion within the national team.
“FECAFOOT further reaffirms its commitment to create a peaceful atmosphere for the team” the statement on Monday.

A sweeper-keeper, Onana, who played full-time in Cameroon’s 0-1 defeat to Switzerland had insisted on maintain same playstyle, but coach Song preferred “traditional goalkeeping” to his sweeper-keeper style.

In the game against Switzerland, Onana had 26 touches outside the box – the most by a goalkeeper in a World Cup match since 1966.

In a rebuttal, the goalkeeper, who flew back to Milan, said he had put in all his “efforts and energy” in finding solutions to the situation, “but there has been no (good) will on the other side”, he wrote, adding that: “some moments are difficult to assimilate” – apparently referring to the disagreement with the coach.

Onana, who was a strong wall for Cameroon in the qualifiers for the Qatar tournament, said they demonstrated (perhaps from the first match) that they are capable of going far in the Qatar competition, but he has his personal values.

“The values that I promote like a person and a player are the ones that identify me, and that my family has given me since childhood. Representing Cameroon has always been a privilege”, the goalkeeper said in his written statement.

Besides qualifying for the next round therefore, the Indomitable Lions will be under the weight of expectations and pressure to win Brazil tonight to redeem the tainted locker room and on the pitch image.



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