The 48th minute of Cameroon’s 2022 World Cup opener is a perfect example of the fine line between victory and defeat. The Swiss team (minus goalscorer Breel Embolo because he was born in Cameroon) celebrate in front of a frenzied crowd, relieved that the close game is finally turning out for them.
Just yards away, Andre Onana and the Cameroon defense look distraught, knowing their chance to win their first World Cup game in 20 years would be even more difficult.
And indeed it was hard. The Swiss press, unstoppable and swarming, broke Cameroon’s offensive, and the spirited attack kept Andre Onana working hard. However, the Indomitable Lions should not blame the loss on the excellence of Switzerland.
This flat Cameroon team was nothing like the 1990 Cameroonian team that wowed Diego Maradona and Gheorghe Hagi at the World Cup, nor the 2002 AFCON team that went unbeaten en route to their fourth Africa Cup title. of Nations. Dysfunctional and disjointed Cameroon looks worse than ever as today’s match with Switzerland demonstrated.
Onana’s heroics is not enough
For a long time, Cameroon’s game against Switzerland seemed surprisingly close. Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo forced a save from Yann Sommer, and Hellas Verona winger Martin Hongla nearly scored to give Cameroon a comfortable lead.
City central defender Manuel Akanji nearly opened the scoring when the first half closed with a header into the bottom right corner. But Akanji’s poor touch of the ball ensured the game remained even until half time.
But finally, Switzerland broke through in the 48th minute when Xherdan Shaqiri played a perfect cross for Embolo, who easily parried the chance. And from there, Cameroon seemed lost.
Rubén Vargas nearly scored from the same spot as Embolo, but Onana’s save kept Cameroon in the game. Granit Xhaka nearly doubled Switzerland’s lead in the 89th, but Onana’s outstretched fingertips prevented another shot attempt.
Although Cameroon saved shot after shot in defence, their attack was unable to retaliate after Embolo’s first goal. Eric Choupo-Moting nearly scored at 57, but his low-quality shot didn’t have a real chance to go in. And so the game ended with a sluggish Cameroon wondering what went wrong.
Cameroon fighting with the press
A key reason Cameroon couldn’t see much time on the ball was heavy pressing from Switzerland. The pressure extended to the corner flags, up and down the touchline, and anywhere Switzerland had a real chance to score on a counter-attack.
Cameroon faced a well-oiled machine, an octopus with endless legs as the Swiss attacked. And for the most part, it wrote off Cameroon’s biggest asset; his possession.
Cameroon’s possession never fell below 50% in the Africa Cup of Nations, and it was one of the main reasons Cameroon made it all the way to the semi-final. It was also one of the main reasons for Cameroon’s losses against South Korea, where they only had 37% possession, and Switzerland, where they saw a minority of the ball.
Cameroon might have an easier time against Serbia, a team that usually needs possession to win games. But if Cameroon can’t beat Serbia with their defensive line, it could spell disaster.
Aboubakar rejected by Choupo-Moting
Vincent Aboubakar is undoubtedly the most influential player Cameroon has seen in a decade or so. He has 92 caps and 33 goals, both the most among active players. He scored the winning penalty against Senegal in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final and the game-winning goal in the final against Egypt. He has constantly appeared over and over again in his country.
Surprisingly, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting took his place as starting center forward against Switzerland. A traditional winger, Choupo-Moting easily adapted to the center forward position. He won three duels and had 28 touches.
However, Choupo-Moting did not have the killer finish that Aboubakar provides. He had a shot blocked, and Yann Sommer easily saved his only shot on target.
Song substituted Choupo-Moting for Aboubakar with 16 minutes remaining on the clock. The Swiss defense struggled to defend the target striker, and Aboubakar had 12 touches in the final third, but his wingers were unable to hit the headers with which Aboubakar excels.
That’s why I think a front three of Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi would fit Cameroon’s style of play better. Not only would he include the three best attackers in the country in one line-up, but Toko Ekambi and Choupo-Moting are great dribblers and have experience on the wings. Instead of having to choose between two and leave one out, as Song did against Switzerland, Cameroon can have all three.
Photo Credit: IMAGO/Sports Press Photo
World Cup 2022 Guide
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