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Jun 27, 2014

Assessment: Cameroon's dire tournament

Cameroon's World Cup has ended in disappointment with elimination from the group stages. ESPNFC blogger Salim Masoud Said investigates what went wrong.

One sentence, World Cup recap

It's impossible to sum it up in a sentence but the less said the better because it does not make for a pretty read. I'll go for simply, "Disastrous."

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Highlights

Even the most ardent, optimistic Cameroon fan would find it impossible to conjure highlights. There hasn't been any. Joel Matip's equaliser in the 4-1 defeat against Brazil was a pleasant moment but nothing more. It has been a tournament pockmarked by problems, not least the bonus issue that overshadowed the team's arrival in Brazil.

Cameroon celebrate Joel Matip's equaliser against Brazil, but it was just a fleeting positive moment in a terrible campaign.

Low points

It has been a tournament full of low points in which Cameroon have unquestionably been the worst side out of the 32. Just one goal scored and no points tells its own story.

The defeat to Croatia summed it up. Yes, it was exacerbated by being down to 10 men but even when the sides were level in terms of numbers on the field, the game plan seemed more gung-ho, if anything. Being a goal down and a man down didn't alter whatever Volker Finke's approach was. Instead of absorbing pressure and keeping the game tight, the naive tactics and outlook continued and saw Cameroon thrashed. It could have been worse.

The players have been a low point, but perhaps Finke's lack of tactical nous has been the lowest point of all.

Lessons learned

Firstly, to sort out bonus disputes months before the ball is kicked. The differences at this level are minimal and not being in the right frame of mind just days before the tournament becomes a factor if you look second best. Cameroon were well beaten by everyone in their group and you have to wonder whether the bonus issue played a part.

This has been a recurring problem at recent World Cups, and the fact that it has been allowed to resurface again is exasperating for fans and observers. In what has increasingly become a pre-World Cup ritual, hopefully this time the lessons have truly been learnt. Secondly, with a dearth of creative players, they need to become more well-drilled. Iran and Australia have shown what it is possible to achieve with good organisation even if they have inferior players. To embrace such an approach may mean ruthlessly discarding figures such as Samuel Eto'o.