The drawing of lots to decide the second qualifier from Group D of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has attracted much criticism and publicity with affected teams Guinea and Mali leading the chorus of disapproval. However sad it may be that group qualification has to be decided by such methods, cynics could also argue that the current tournament needs an injection of controversy to hide some of the failings of the football entertainment being offered. During the group stages, by winning 3-1 against South Africa, Algeria were the only team to score more than two goals in a match and the Democratic Republic of Congo secured second place in Group B by scoring two goals in three draws.
However, while the outcome of qualification in Group D has partially dominated the recent headlines in recent days, with all teams equal entering the final matches, it is the fortunes of the Cameroon team which paints a more depressing picture. Cameroon finished bottom of the group with two points earned and two goals scored, but this was a national team which once excited the World and led to remarks that an African team would soon win the World Cup.
Back in 1990, a Cameroon team led by the charismatic Roger Milla were leading 2-1 in a World Cup quarter-final match against England before two Gary Lineker penalties helped his team to gain an extra-time victory. Cameroon were within seven minutes of claiming a berth in the Semi-Finals and no African team has reached that elusive stage during the intervening years. Indeed only Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 have been World Cup quarter-finalists from that continent.
The demise of Cameroon was also illustrated in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups when the team lost all six games and scored just three goals while they also failed to qualify for the two previous African Nations Cups after winning the tournament on four previous occasions. During a troubled 2014 World Cup there were reports of physical infighting among the squad and which followed a refusal to board the flight to Brazil in a dispute regarding bonuses.
Such issues are so very different from a team in 1990 which played with passion and natural flair and which motivated a generation of Cameroon youngsters in attempting to emulate their role models. The success of the national team also attracted the interest of the unscrupulous agents eager to promise young footballers a lucrative contract with a top European team, often leading to worrying tales of betrayal and hardship. Many experts have since claimed that other African countries have been similarly affected with improvisation on the field and team spirit being replaced by the ‘Europeanisation’ of the players and personal interests in earning a contract.
It may be that the start of the knockout phase in current African Cup of Nations will be the signal for more compelling viewing and certainly more goals, but can a team emerge showing such similar promise as demonstrated by Cameroon back in 1990.