WHEN Australia line up against Cameroon in St Petersburg in the early hours of Friday morning (AEST) — a must-win Confederations Cup match for both teams — it will be the first time the two countries have ever met.
But for all the talk of stepping in to the unknown for Ange Postecoglou’s side, the Australian coach will face something of a kindred spirit in the opposite dug out. The two sides, in fact, have much more in common than might first meet the eye.
Cameroon coach Hugo Broos was appointed to the job in February 2016 and quickly set about trying to change a culture of underachievement.
In the same fashion as Postecoglou has done in his tenure, the Belgian did that by removing many of the old, established players, searching the world for youngsters he could bring in to the squad and mould in to an attacking outfit with a clear identity.
Facing questions from the local media over his methods and ambition, Broos answered them with a continental title, his fresh faced team winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year when many had given them less than a puncher’s chance.
— Fecafoot-Officiel (@FecafootOfficie) June 21, 2017
The parallels have continued, of course, in to the current tournament. An opening round loss to Chile was one that came with credit. But has left no room for error.
“Disappointed with the result but satisfied with the performance,” Broos said of that loss. Postegoglou, too, had positives to take from the first round despite defeat.
Against Australia Cameroon will be hoping their vaunted winger Christian Bassogog has a greater impact than he did against the South Americans.
The player of the Africa Cup of Nations in January, a performance that earned him a lucrative move from Aalborg BK in the Danish top flight to the Chinese Super League, his pace and directness will test Australia’s defence out wide. Vincent Aboubakar, the Besiktas striker, will be handful in the air in the Socceroos box.
Both teams will have targeted this fixture as the most winnable within the group before the tournament opened. That assessment has become a necessity in terms of survival in the competition.
POSSIBLE TEAMS (Final teams an hour before kick-off)
Fabrice Ondoa; Ernest Mabouka, Adolphe Teikeu, Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui, Collins Fai; Sebastien Siani, Arnaud Djoum, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa; Christian Bassogog, Vincent Aboubakar, Benjamin Moukandjo
Mat Ryan; Bailey Wright, Ryan McGowan, Trent Sainsbury; Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Aziz Behich, Jackson Irvine, Tom Rogic, Mathew Leckie; Tomi Juric