Eto'o gives Cameroon hope of flying start
Preview: Cameroon v Japan, Today, 3.00pm, BBC1
Published 14/06/2010 | 04:24
Cameroon's Indomitable Lions look set to feast on struggling Japan when they meet in their opening match.
The nation that thrilled the world with the emerging power of African football by reaching the quarter-finals in the 1990 tournament have not been on such great form in recent years. But, spearheaded by striker Samuel Eto'o, they have rediscovered their roar under coach Paul Le Guen and will carry the hopes of people not just in Cameroon, but across the African continent.
Japan are putting on a brave face but they have struggled to score goals and look destined to be the supporting cast in Group E.
Eto'o will need to put a spat with former Cameroon great Roger Milla behind him when he leads his team out at Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium.
Milla questioned the Internazionale player's commitment to his country, prompting Eto'o to threaten to miss the tournament. But the three-time Africa Player of the Year had a thumbs-up and smile for the crowd when he arrived in Durban on Thursday.
Frenchman Le Guen, who has turned Cameroon around since his appointment in July last year, said the strong and experienced squad was in good fettle despite the Milla-Eto'o row and the failure to win any of their warm-up games.
"We had a good preparation and we are optimistic," he said. "We have pressure but it's not a surprise for me. It's normal. We have good players, we have a good team, I am hopeful."
What to watch out for
The partnership of Jean Makoun and Alexandre Song in central midfield will be crucial if Cameroon are to repeat former glories and dance around the corner flag, as Milla memorably did in 1990 after scoring.
The Lions were the first African side to reach the last eight and have the most appearances by any African nation, but they will need to show their bite if they are to progress here.