Lions must roar beyond proud appearance record

Argentina great Diego Maradon tries to beat two Cameroonians at the 1990 World Cup. PHOTO/AFP 

What you need to know:

The Indomitable Lions come into this game aware they have lost each of their previous seven World Cup matches, a record only beaten by Mexico’s nine consecutive defeats between 1930 and 1958.

Football icon Samuel Eto’o has already set clear expectations for his country, Cameroon - wildly optimistic as they might sound.

An all-African Fifa World Cup final between Cameroon and Morocco is what he sees in Qatar.

"During the years, African teams have acquired more and more experience, and I think they're ready not only to participate in a World Cup, but also to win it,'' he told the media ahead of the tournament kick-off, “Cameroon will win the World Cup final against Morocco."

And as the Indomitable Lions open their campaign against Switzerland in today’s Group G lunchtime kick-off at Al Janoub Stadium, Eto’o’s former national teammate Rigobert Song, now coaching Cameroon, and his boys will know standards have been set.

Yet, even Eto’o - who is also the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) president, knows that another quarter final finish, just like they did at Italia 1990, would be quite a step forward.

Especially for a country that has failed to progress from the group at USA 1994, France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018!

Now Cameroon find themselves in the same group with five-time champions Brazil and Serbia. 

They must find a way to progress from this group and go beyond just their otherwise good record of having the most World cup qualifications in Africa - eight! 

For now however, Song and his men can momentarily forget distant ambitions because if they are to achieve any of them, they must focus on a positive result against Switzerland today.

The Indomitable Lions come into this game aware they have lost each of their previous seven World Cup matches, a record only beaten by Mexico’s nine consecutive defeats between 1930 and 1958.

Men to watch 

This and Serbia later on are the games Cameroon must get points from if they are to come any close to Eto’o’s wishes, and the two men Song will be looking to to help the cause are Brentford forward Bryan Mbeumo and Al-Nassr’s Vincent Aboubakar.

The former France youth international, Mbeumo, only switched his allegiance in August, and cannot wait to get started.

“I’ve always wanted to play a World Cup since I was young,” he said, “Just to walk around the pitch with a big crowd and other stuff would be amazing. It’s going to be crazy inside me.”

And in Aboubakar, Song has a machine with unfinished business. Aboubakar failed to register a single shot on target in four previous World Cup matches. But eight goals at the 2021 African Cup of Nations is a good statistic to bring into this World Cup.

For Switzerland, their go-to man remains Breel Embolo, who himself was born in Cameroon. 

Embolo top scored for Switzerland with three goals during qualifying, as well as twice at Nations League matches in September. 

Supporting the Monaco striker will be Swiss veteran forward and vice-captain Xherdan Shaqiri, who has been directly involved in 48 per cent of their 23 goals in their last four major tournaments. That is eight goals and three assists.

Playing his fourth World Cup, this is probably Shaqiri’s final tournament and he will want to make it count. 

The Swiss arrive at Qatar 2022 having not been defeated in their first match of the tournament since a 5-0 loss against Germany in 1966, and will be looking to reach their third successive knockout stages.

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