By Sam Crocker,

Once one of the hottest properties in French football when Liverpool signed him in 2007, as his performances for Lens made him rumoured for a call-up to the France team, Charles Itandje’s career is now one move to an oil-spoilt club in the Emirates away from being the epitome of obscure. Now   plying his trade at mid-table Turkish Süper Lig side Konyaspor, on loan from Greek side PAOK, his infantile   acts at the Hillsborough memorial service in 2009 turned out to be a signpost for things to come. However, whilst his club career doesn’t look   likely to be resurrected any time soon, his performances for his national   team have made him the undisputed number 1 for Cameroon– a shirt he’s likely to be holding onto when Brazil comes around.

Whilst hardly a traditional position for African players to be properly   recognised, Cameroon is one of the few countries in the continent to have a   consistent record in producing quality goalkeepers. From the famous battle   for the goalkeeper jersey between Thomas Nkono and Jo Jo Bell during the   1980s, to the man that Itandje has replaced between the sticks – Carlos Idriss Kameni (who has 70 caps for his country) – the reputation for   producing top-class glove-wearers in the West African country has been   second to none. Only really overthrowing Kameni from his post on account of   his lack of game time for Malaga, the Spanish club’s preference for Willy   Caballero in goal has been somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as it gave   Itandje the chance to give a series of superb performances in the latter   half of the qualifying process.

Having not even declared his eligibility until 2010 after his hopes for a   France call-up became increasingly unlikely, with his parents’ Cameroonian descent made him eligible for the national side, making his debut in a 2-1   win against Togo in March 2013 – in what turned out to be manager Jean-Paul   Akono’s final game in charge. New-man Volker Finke kept faith with him upon   taking over, and has been repaid with a series of unbeatable performances,   with a string of outrageous saves in the first leg against Tunisia very much the highlight to keep the score line at 0-0 at the final whistle in Radès.

A completely different figure than the man who was occasionally seen in the colours of Liverpool FC when he pulls on the Cameroon shirt, his form internationally is more reminiscent of his time at Lens than his domestic   form since leaving France; he seemingly saves the best for his time with the   Indomitable Lions. It’s almost difficult to believe that it is the same   player who was pretty much on gardening leave at Liverpool after returning   from his loan spell at Kavala. There, he actied as at least fifth choice   goalkeeper behind Pepe Reina, Brad Jones, Peter Gulasci and Martin Hansen,   before his contract was terminated early.

The lack of first team action that the other Cameroonian goalkeepers are   receiving at the minute means that Itandje’s competition is not exactly   fierce, with Kameni, Guy N’Dy Assembé and Sammy N’Djock spending more time   bench-warming this season than anything else. Those three will be competing   to be his backup whilst in Brazil. Nevertheless, it cannot be underestimated   how important Itandje has been so far for his adopted nation, and by   maintaining this form this summer he could become an unlikely hero for the   Indomitable Lions.

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