Cameroon gambles on Song in search of 1990 World Cup magic

Oct 26, 2022, 2:36 PM | Updated: Oct 27, 2022, 2:41 am
FILE - Cameroon's coach Rigobert Song Bahanag gives instructions from the side line during the frie...

FILE - Cameroon's coach Rigobert Song Bahanag gives instructions from the side line during the friendly soccer match between South Korea and Cameroon at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

              FILE - Senegal's Kalidou Koulibaly, left, challenges Egypt's Mohamed Salah during the African Cup of Nations 2022 final soccer match between Senegal and Egypt at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
            
              Cameroon's Bryan Mbeumo controls the ball during a friendly soccer match against Uzbekistan in Goyang, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
            
              FILE - Cameroon's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, left, challenges for the ball with Egypt's Amr El Solia during the African Cup of Nations 2022 semi-final soccer match between Cameroon and Egypt at the Olembe stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)

Cameroon’s big gamble for the World Cup was putting its campaign in the hands of one of its greatest players.

Rigobert Song, a highly respected former captain, was appointed coach in February despite a lack of managerial experience outside of Cameroon’s youth structures. He faces the challenge of trying to take the Indomitable Lions past the group stage of a World Cup for the first time since Roger Milla and Co. made their way to the quarterfinals in 1990 and put African soccer on the map.

Song succeeded in his first mission when Cameroon won a two-legged playoff against Algeria in March to qualify for the tournament in Qatar, although only after a last-ditch goal by Karl Toko Ekambi four minutes into injury time at the end of extra time of the second game.

Subsequent losses to Uzbekistan and South Korea in World Cup warmups have provided a reality check and raised questions about whether federation president Samuel Eto’o, a former teammate of Song, was too hasty in replacing Toni Conceição. The Portuguese coach led Cameroon to a third-place finish at this year’s African Cup of Nations and laid a foundation to build on in Qatar.

A NEW SONG

No one doubts Song’s huge contribution to Cameroonian soccer. He played at four World Cups, eight African Cups, won two African titles and made a national record 137 appearances for his country. But he has yet to win everyone over in his new role.

Song’s coaching resume is nowhere near as extensive as his playing achievements. A Cameroon “A” team he was in charge of at the African Nations Championship in 2018 finished last in its group and was embarrassed by losses to Republic of Congo and Angola.

The 46-year-old former Liverpool defender coached the under-23 team before his promotion but the doubts about his ability are set to follow Cameroon to the World Cup, where it plays Switzerland, Serbia and Brazil in Group G.

MBEUMO BOOST

Cameroon’s attacking threat has been boosted by former France under-21 international Bryan Mbeumo’s decision to switch allegiance to his father’s home country.

The 23-year-old Brentford forward offers Premier League experience up front alongside Vincent Aboubakar and Toko Ekambi, who were a formidable strike combination and the top two scorers at this year’s African Cup with 13 goals between them. There’s also Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Holding midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa is arguably Cameroon’s most important player but Song has so far failed to bolster a defense that has a habit of leaking early goals. He hasn’t managed to convince Liverpool defender Joel Matip to return to international duty.

GHOSTS OF 1990

The Milla team that beat Argentina and Colombia and took England to the wire at the 1990 World Cup in Italy broke barriers for African soccer by reaching the quarterfinals and nearly the semifinals, and is the standard against which every Cameroon team since has been judged. Every one has been a disappointment.

The Central African country may yearn for a repeat of that magical run of 32 years ago but the cold reality is that Cameroon has won only one game at the World Cup since 1990, against Saudi Arabia in 2002.

Cameroon lost all three of its games and had the worst record of all 32 teams at the last World Cup it played at in 2014.

___

Associated Press writer Isifu Wirfengla in Yaounde, Cameroon, contributed to this report.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

SFA beats UNC Greensboro 75-58

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — Roti Ware scored 17 points as SFA beat UNC Greensboro 75-58 on Sunday. Ware was 6 of 9 shooting and 4 of 4 from the free throw line for the Lumberjacks (4-3). Nigel Hawkins added 13 points while shooting 5 for 11 (2 for 3 from 3-point range) and 1 of […]
1 day ago
South Carolina forward Victaria Saxton, left, shoots over Hampton guard Camryn Hill during the firs...
Associated Press

Boston injured in No. 1 Gamecocks’ 85-38 win over Hampton

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston missed the second half of No. 1 South Carolina’s game against Hampton on Sunday with her right foot in a walking boot, but reserves Bree Hall and Ashlyn Watkins scored 14 points each in an 85-38 win. Kamila Cardoso added 11 points and 14 rebounds for South Carolina. It […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Big 3rd quarter carries No. 14 Maryland women by Pitt 87-63

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Abby Meyers scored 12 of her 23 points in Maryland’s 36-point third quarter and the No. 14 Terrapins rolled to an 87-63 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday to finish the Ft. Myers Tip-Off. Brinae Alexander hit three 3-pointers in the Terps’ biggest quarter of the season and was 5 of […]
1 day ago
TCU quarterback Max Duggan reacts to throwing touchdown pass during the second half of an NCAA coll...
Associated Press

AP Top 25: Michigan up to No. 2 behind top-ranked Georgia

Michigan moved up to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday, with TCU at No. 3 and Southern California at No. 4 behind top-ranked Georgia after four top-10 teams lost on the final day of regular-season games. The Bulldogs (12-0) are No. 1 for the eighth straight week and 11th time this […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Memphis uses 15-0 run, defense to turn back Stanford 56-48

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Alex Lomax scored seven of his 12 points in a game-changing surge and Memphis used its defense to stymie Stanford 56-48 in the fifth-place game of the ESPN Events Invitational on Sunday. Maxime Raynaud and Harrison Ingram hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Stanford up 14-9 midway through the first half. After […]
1 day ago
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) shoots against Hampton during the second quarter of an NCA...
Associated Press

South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston in walking boot after fall

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston was sidelined with a walking boot on her right foot after a hard fall duing the No. 1 Gamecocks’ game Sunday against Hampton. The Most Outstanding Player of last spring’s NCAA Tournament was driving for the basket when she fell and took several moments to get […]
1 day ago
Cameroon gambles on Song in search of 1990 World Cup magic