Cameroon exits World Cup with 3 straight losses
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — It started with the threat of a strike, contained two big defeats, involved a scuffle between teammates and ended with star player Samuel Eto’o on the sidelines. Overall, it was a calamitous World Cup campaign for Cameroon.
As lopsided as it was, the 4-1 loss to Brazil on Monday was the best game of an unhappy tournament for one of Africa’s former powerhouse teams.
“We played well in the first half when we trailed 2-1,” Cameroon coach Valker Finke said. “But overall, our whole campaign was a disappointment.”
That’s something of an understatement.
Cameroon’s troubles started even before the team got on the plane to Brazil.
The players had refused to board a flight because of a long-running dispute over bonus payments for the tournament, forcing their national federation to take out a loan to meet their demands.
When that was temporarily settled, Cameroon opened with a 1-0 to Mexico and then a 4-0 defeat to Croatia — results which dropped Finke’s squad out of World Cup contention well before the encounter against the tournament hosts.
This Cameroon squad was nothing like the 1990 World Cup team, which beat then defending champion Argentina in the opening match before going on to become the first African team to reach the quarterfinals.
To make things worse, Cameroon’s football federation had to open an investigation against two players who scuffled late in the match against Croatia, when Benoit Assou-Ekotto appeared to head-butt teammate Benjamin Moukandjo.
Finke described it as “disgraceful behavior,” but still fielded Moukandjo in the match against Brazil.
The coach said his team had “some good moments” at the World Cup “but we needed to focus for 90 minutes.”
Further adding to troubles, Eto’o — the team’s best and most experienced player — missed the two last matches at the tournament with a knee injury.
This was probably the last World Cup for the 33-years-old and there are doubts he will continue playing for the national team after this troubled campaign.
“Everything went wrong for us at this tournament,” midfielder Landry Nguemo said. “I have no explanation. We have to recuperate and see what happens next.”
Despite the miserable World Cup, Finke said Monday he wanted to stay on as the head coach.
“I have a contract and will do my job,” the 66-year-old German said. “We have to rebuild a number of things.”