Friday, June 18, 2010

Idomitable Lions

The Lions of Cameroon are playing on the biggest stage of the world's most popular sport. If you don't know which one, then you're probably...American.

I'm also guilty of not staying in touch with association football but manage to get excited every 4 years for the Cup. Though this year I've been following it more than ever before since we've adopted a new team to support! So much so that I've almost stopped calling it soccer. What's the deal with having to name it differently, anyway? I mean "football"... foot. ball. Makes sense. But "soccer"? Sounds more like an unfortunate exclamation of violence:

Striker (Strike Her)

Plus, there's really no excuse not to jump on the World Cup bandwagon as this is the off season for the big US sports, which includes the regular season for baseball. "Aww shucks, we lost today...What's that? Just one out of 162 games!? Well now I don't feel so bad for that nap I took through the first 8 innings".

There's no napping in soccer football

This is the first year an African country has hosted the World Cup, so the pressure is on for an African team to make a run. Our friends over at tell us based on their trip to Africa, whenever an African team is playing the whole continent is in fevered support. Would be great to be in Cameroon with an African team still in the Cup, but the chances are slim as no African team is supposed to make it to the round of 16. We will arrive just before the final 4 starts.

Cameroon was actually picked as the most likely African team to make it to the knockout round of 16. Not because they were the best African team necessarily, but because they had the friendliest Group Stage draw of opponents. Unfortunately the prediction hinged on the tiny detail of beating the weaker opponent, Japan, in the first game, which they failed to do. A sluggish start and inaccurate passing into the box did them in.

One of the bright spots in the game against Japan was watching Samuel Eto'o take on 4 defenders in an embarrassingly (for Japan) one-sided game of keep away. Eto'o (Eh-toe) is the loan lion star and is arguably the best African player, winning 3 consecutive African Player of the Year awards. However it's up to his less talented supporting cast to rise to the occasion and keep the opponent's pressure off the leading lion.

Am I going to have to do this all myself?

The next match against Denmark is a must win and needs to be done in convincing fashion to put themselves in good position to win a tie-break (goal differential is used). The last team they play is the juggernaut Netherlands who are expected to win handily against all 3 teams in Group E.

Hopefully they can rekindle some of the magic from the 1990 World Cup in which Cameroon was on the right side of one of the biggest World Cup upsets of all time against reigning champs and eventual runner up, Argentina. That year they became the first African Nation, and still one of 2 (re: Senegal), to make the quarter finals. No African team has made it farther. It's going to take a similar roaring performance and maybe some mind games to take down the Netherlands. I suggest going after their identity crisis and calling them Holland throughout the match.

Oh, and go USA too!


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