• “Our aim was to win the game and qualify for the quarter-finals”-Ndtoungou Mpile. Host Cameroon jeopardized their opportunity of grabbing an early quarter-final spot after a stalemate with Mali. Would the delay eventually cost them?
By Beng Emmanuel
Cameroon’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the African Nations Championship for the first time since 2016 with a game to spare suffered a setback. A stunning comeback from Mali denied the host victory on match day two of group A.
The host were on a verge of becoming the first nation to secure a spot for the last eight (8) of the continental competition. However, they let the occasion slip away in a game they gained ground breaking form and made tremendous impact.
With such results obtained, the Intermediate Lions may have put themselves under unnecessary pressure with their final group A encounter against the Stallions of Burkina Faso. A clash considered decisive to guarantee their survival.
However, the Intermediate Lions can breathe a huge sigh of relieve. The team must equally be given credit for holding on to a draw. It could have been worse if Mali defeated them. The West Africans displayed a flamboyant and highly technical style of play that almost stunned the host.
“Our aim was to win the game and qualify for the quarter-finals. But we met a very good team in front of us. We did our best to win this game but it was very difficult. We are going to analyse this game plan and our team before we play Burkina Faso” Ndtoungou Mpile, Cameroon’s Head Coach said during a press conference after the game.
Cameroon will face Burkina Faso who clinched their maiden win in the CHAN since making their debut in 2014. In 2018 they played a 1-1 draw together in their final group D game. They finished without a win and crashed out at the group stages.
Cameroon has a better record in the CHAN than Burkina Faso. They have featured at four CHAN finals and reached the quarter-finals twice in 2011 and 2016. Burkina Faso are yet to achieve such exploit. Now, coupled with their status as host nation, is there enough evidence they will show case brilliance to help reflect their superiority? Or will they derail their title quest for another time?
Is Ndtoungou Mpile under pressure?
The answer to this could be negative or positive. It depends on how you see it, the angles vary.
Against Mali, the Cameroonian gaffer made two surprise changes to the team that edged Zimbabwe in their opening match. Mfede Junior and Man Ykre Dangmo started in place of injured Jacques Zoua and Bryan Soga.
He was almost rewarded for taking such a move when Ykre Dangmo screamer almost opened the scoring for the Lions. Mfede Junior ‘s assist for Banga Bindejeme to net the opener later proofed he had made the right choice.
But to every rule, there is an exception. Junior Ndedi had failed to impress. And things got worse for Cameroon when the defender suffered from an early injury. Then came the influential Etame Ngombe, who started during their first game and began having immediate impact against Mali.
Not only did this put to doubt the coach’s choice but the damage had already been done. This also left Ndtoungou Mpile in a dilemma despite making a smart substitution.
“We decided to feature Ndedi with regards to what he could offer to the team. Unfortunately he suffered an early injury. We thought that he could have played the entire game. But his injury forced us to replace him”.
Ndedi is not the only player who sustained an injury. His compatriot and captain Jacques Zoua was ruled out of the clash due to a muscle issue, we understand.
“With regards to Jacques Zoua, he also a muscle injury. The technical staff is ensuring he gets better. If everything goes as planned, I think that we will see him in the next game”.
Without Zoua, there are still a lot of options to be exploited upfront. Three of the team’s previous goals (both before and during the CHAN) were scored by Banga Bindjeme-a defender. The options may be many but the outcomes of the game are few. It’s either a win or a draw. Losing is not an option.
With the calculations running through the coach’s mind there is need to remedy and wipe out the only black mark on a perfect report sheet. Sunday’s clash thus presents the opportunity to get back to winning ways.
Coach Ndtoungou Mpile definitely has a lot of faults to address before the clash with Burkina Faso. They will have to cope with a side that combines both brute strength and technical quality to unlock opposition. That implies they will have to put extra effort to carry the day.
It is perhaps time to cease this opportunity to put things right and justify his suitability for the top job.
Banga, Cameroon’s proven scorer
With two goals in two games, Salomon Banga Bindjeme has proven to have the ability to dictate play from wherever he is. Besides being an incredible defender with outrageous tackles, the Coton Sport defender is key figure to the Intermediate Lions squad.
He is currently the joint top scorer of the 2020 African Nation Championship with two goals alongside Guinea’s forward Yakhouba Barry. Apart from his goal scoring instincts, Banga is a charismatic leader with tremendous influence on the team.
But the story behind his rise reveals how he has been able to brave the odds to become a leading figure for his team. He has previously battled to play regular football with Coton Sport of Garoua but has begun enjoying first team opportunities with the Fifteen (15) times League one champions.
Surprisingly, he was never called up to camp under Yves Clement Arroga. But that doesn’t seem to have affected his output.
The deputy captain of the Intermediate Lions will be on the spotlight on Sunday against Burkina Faso. Getting on the score sheet for a third time in a row will represent an extraordinary achievement for the refined defender. Meanwhile guiding Cameroon to the quarter-finals of the CHAN will be ultimately honourable.
Banga Bindjeme is one of the two only players with CHAN experience in the Cameroon CHAN squad. Serge Andoulo of Union Sportive of Douala is the second.