One of the competitions that has everyone buzzing is on our horizon. The 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations is set to take place this June. The competition will see 24 teams battle it out to see who will reign as king of African football. Much focus will be on Clarence Seedorf and his men on whether they can successfully defend their title.
There has been a lot of controversial news surrounding this Cameroon team. Famously known as the Indomitable Lions. The men from West Africa were stripped of the rights to host the 32nd edition of the tournament. Cameroon had shown signs of being incapable to host a tournament of such magnitude throughout the inspection stages. It was than announced later in 2018 that the tournament will be hosted elsewhere.
This tactical analysis will provide a preview will look at how the defending champs look to play, formations, key personnel for the upcoming tournament.
Squad and Expected Lineup
Goalkeepers: Andre Onana (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), Fabrice Ondoa (Oostende, Belgium), Carlos Kameni (Fenerbahce, Turkey)
Defenders: Collins Fai (Standard Liege, Belgium), Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (Slavia Prague, Czech Republic), Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo (Montpellier, France), Yaya Banana (Panionios, Greece), Gaetan Bong (Brighton, England), Jean Armel Kana-Biyik (Kayserispor, Turkey), Dawa Tchakounte (Mariupol, Ukraine)
Midfielders: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham, England), Georges Mandjeck (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Pierre Kunde Malong (Mainz, Germany), Arnaud Djoum (Hearts, Scotland), Wilfrid Kaptoum (Real Betis, Spain)
Forwards: Stephane Bahoken (Angers, France), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (PSG, France), Karl Toko Ekambi (Villarreal, Spain), Jacques Zoua (Astra, Romania), Clinton Njie (Marseille, France), Christian Bassogog (Henan, China), Joel Tagueu (Maritimo, Portugal), Olivier Boumal (Panionios, Greece)
With the team losing their star man Vincent Aboubakar less than a month before a tournament kicks off. A new leader will have to rise to lead the team to success. Aboubakar absence will be felt as the talisman from Porto scored the goal that lead the team to success in 2017. Two players who were in the team that won in 2017 have been left out the 23-man squad. These players include Red Bull Salzburg defender Jerome Onguene and Nurnberg midfielder Edgar Salli
It isn’t certain which formation Seedorf will play in his first game against Guinea-Bissau on the 25th of June. In the game’s leading up to the tournament. former AC Milan star Seedorf has played two formations. He has tinkered his formation between a 5-3-2 and a 4-2-3-1.
In a 3-4-1-2 formation like the one above Cameroon look to use wingbacks as one of their attacking approaches. The three centre backs stay behind to protect Onana on attack. While the wing backs N’Jie and Onyango are given license to roam up the flanks to deliver crosses for the strikers. The midfield consists of a double pivot number eight as well who are tasked with providing stability to the team. The number ten is usually the one responsible with making the team play. A key strength for Cameroon in this formation is their strength and size up front.
Long Ball Approach
In this friendly game against Mali, we saw Cameroon adopt two kinds of attacking strategies. The first strategy they used was the long ball forward and look to play on the knockdown. Bassagog and Toko Ekambi are two players that can hold the ball up well playing as target man. With this strength, it becomes much quicker to get to the final third as well as create chances.
A key advantage of this system is the uncertainty of the second ball. A lot of teams currently make use of different defensive shapes according to the opposition’s attack. However, with the long ball tactic, it is quite difficult to plan against this approach. The approach forces defenders to be quite pro-active than defensive.
It will be quite interesting to see how Cameroon will play this formation. The knockdown from the striker after the long ball presents the attackers with many attacking options. Cameroon can either go wide and deliver a cross, play the third man running or either take a shot at goal.
The second attacking approach adopted by Cameroon was the use of wingbacks in the likes of N’jie and Oyongo. This eventually resulted in Cameroon getting the equalizer through a cross from N’jie which was headed home by Toko Ekambi. With this approach, Cameroon first looks to draw players in by first playing the ball through the centre. As soon as the opposition players tuck in, the ball gets played out to the flanks where it needs to be crossed in. This system is suitable for a team like Cameroon because of the pace they possess on the flanks. This pace is then matched by the aerial threat of the forwards.
The double pivot in the midfield will be key in this system. The role of stretching the defence and switching play will be in tasked on this duo. While the defence is focused on one side, Cameroon normally look to switch the ball to the other wingback to create a one v one situation. A one v one situation is good because the defender normally doesn’t have cover if he is beaten. This results in less defenders being in the box which will be beneficial for Cameroon.
Based solely on the friendly match against Mali. One notable disadvantage of this formation is the exertion on the double pivot. These two players are normally tasked with assisting in attack and defence. One thing Mali managed exploit which lead to their opening goal was the space beside and behind these two defensive midfielders. The spacing between the defenders and midfielders is something Seedorf needs to work on. Mali managed to have three uncontested shots in this friendly in the first half. Communication on who needs to stay and who needs to go and attack is something Cameroon will need to work on.
Another formation developed by Cameroon is the 4-3-1-2. This, however, is quite like the first formation played by Seedorf. In attack, the defensive midfielder in drops back and sit in between the centre backs while the wing backs go up in attack. One of the key players will be Choupo-Moting. The scoring responsibility will rest on him. The man playing France will need to provide his experience to help give the team a boost.
One thing that can be said about Seedorf in this formation, is the fluidity they have in changing playing styles.
In the game above Cameroon although on paper they played a 4-3-1-2 formation however, in reality, this wasn’t always the case. 35% of the game, the side adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation. This could be the ideal formation to have while in defence, as its beneficial to have players behind the ball. Being able to shift from attack to defence is crucial in soccer. With a 4-2-3-1 Cameroon will look to close the middle and open the wide areas, looking to defend the cross rather.
In attack, Cameroon will generally look to play a 4-3-1-2 which is identical to their first discussed formation of 3-5-2. Knowing when to apply which formational change will be key to ensure success for Indomitable Lions. However, in attack, one key aspect of Cameroons attack in having players in and around the box. Whether they resort to wingbacks or playing the long ball will depend on the opposition on the day.
All eyes will be on Cameroon and whether they can claim back their title in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The experience of Choupo-Moting to lead from the front will be very much needed. The Ajax shot stopper Onana will also be called upon to marshal his team’s defence. With a lot of key changes and missing personnel, it will be of much interest to see how Seedorf manages his team.
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