By Lionel Tchoungui Bidzogo
After four matches counting as qualifier games for the 2015 edition of the AFCON games, the opinion of fans home and abroad hold that the rejuvenated Lions Squad still has much work to do to meet up with their expectations.
The matches against the D.R Congo and Ivory Coast had erased painful memories of the dismal performance of the Lions at the South Africa and Brazil World Cups. The October 11 encounter between the Indomitable Lions and the Leone stars pushed many into questioning the reliability of the squad undergoing reconstruction, as after 90 minutes of play characterised by heightened expectations, both teams left on a virgin tie.
Wednesday’s encounter thus stood out as a litmus test for all and sundry who had come from all corners of Cameroon to watch the puerile squad perform.
The first ten minutes of play were enough to reassure the fans that the squad had everything under control. At the fourth minute of play, through a header, Leonard Kwekeu would score the first goal for Cameroon. Barely three minutes later, Leone Star goalie, Solomon Zombo, yet to recover from conceding a goal would once more be beaten by another header, this time from Lions team captain, Stephane Mbia.
The minutes which would follow would see a rather push full Cameroonian team with an elegant style of play and colourful touches of the ball to the satisfaction of the public which had come to savour the spectacle.
The experience of the Cameroonian defence line with the likes of Henri Bedimo, Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia transformed the game into a practical nightmare for Leone stars attackers. The two goals conceded by the Sierra Leone squad would not cause them to relent their efforts as they would continue nurturing hopes of equalising till the end.
During the second half, the Lions playing style would be different from that which they used in the previous half, leading to a few lapses and lack of coordination at the level of the midfield and defence. At the attack, Njie Clinton, Choupo Moting and Benjamin Moukandjo would serve fans with a superb game, though just a goal which would be denied would result from the actions.
At the end of 90 minutes of play, it would be Cameroon 2 – Sierra Leone 0.
In a post match press conference, Leone stars player, Sheriff Suma would laud the game and Cameroon’s victory, but however attributes their defeat to the limited number of players the team came with.
His words: “The Lions played well, but I think one of the factors which led to our defeat was the fact that we had a limited number of players. After our first match, some of them conceded injuries, so it was difficult for us to play our game as we should have”.
Questioned on why the output of the squad was weaker today than that of the October 11 match, Leone stars coach, John Agina Sesay, said during their last match, their game was more of defensive and today, they decided to be offensive. He further noted that the Lions made good use of their early opportunities. He thanked the Cameroonian authorities for all the care they received.
On his part Cameroon’s coach, Volker Finke held that the team is still undergoing a reconstruction and called on fans to give them more time to finish with the work that would yield fruits in the years ahead. This position was corroborated by team captain Stephane Mbia.
The victory has been received with mixed feelings by fans across Cameroon. Speaking to lions4life.com, a Yaounde based fan, Chester Michael Chenjo posits that the performance of the Lions was quite encouraging but we should keep in mind that a match cannot be perfect.
“It is my opinion that they still lack team spirit. One who watched the second half would agree with me that it was kind of slow. We did not have that drive to go on with the match. We were somewhat contented with the two goals we had scored”, he adds.
Sports reporter, Njie Enow Ebai is of the opinion that Finke made decisions which were far below expectations, but further notes that he is the coach and he knows better.
Hear him “ the scoreline should have been more. We had more opportunities but i think Mandjeck and Moukandjo were not on a good day. I was expecting the coach to bring in Aboubakar in the second half as his pacy and tactical style full of dribbles would have been a nightmare to Leone Defenders. Ze pressed from behind, the midfield was good, we created opportunities but what matters most is the three points we had”.
The Lions would need one more point to efficiently qualify for the AFCON 2015. After the defeat of Ivory Coast on home soil by the D.R Congo, Sierra Leone still stands a chance of crossing the rubicon. For her to do that, she would have to win her remaining return matches. Cameroon still leads her group with 10 points closely followed by the DR Congo.
The lions victory comes at a time when it is speculated that Morocco is eschewing from hosting Afcon 2015. As they take a rendez-vous for their next matches against the DR Congo and Ivory Coast, expectations are plenty.