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AFCON 2023: Eto'o, Onana, his future... Rigobert Song under pressure

Andre Onana et Samuel Eto'o
AFCON 2023: Eto'o, Onana, his future... Rigobert Song under pressure

With just a few weeks to go before the start of the AFCON in Côte d'Ivoire (January 13-February 11), Cameroon coach Rigobert Song faces a crucial mission: to win the continental title and secure a contract extension. However, the challenges are not confined to the pitch, with political pressures, criticism of his team management and relations more or less at a standstill between two key figures: Samuel Eto'o and André Onana.

One year after Cameroon's national soccer team failed to reach the first round of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Rigobert Song is preparing to go back on deck. This time, the Cameroon coach will have to find the right recipe to enable the Indomitable Lions to win a sixth continental star. But let's face it: the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), to be held in Côte d'Ivoire from January 13 to February 11 2024, is not going to be easy for a coach whose future is under particular threat.


Pressure from the Minister of Sports

Rigobert Song has been appointed Cameroon's new coach, following a tug-of-war between Sports Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi and Fécafoot president Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o officially signed a two-year contract on March 23, 2022, including the obligation to win the 2023 African Cup of Nations. In other words, his fate is linked to the future performance of Vincent Aboubakar's team. The Lions are under pressure. Song is under pressure too. For a debacle at the AFCON in Côte d'Ivoire is not at all on the mind of the Cameroon government.

"I have instructed Fécafoot (the Cameroon Football Federation) to do everything in its power to ensure that the national team shines with its fighting spirit and its ability to dazzle the sporting public, demonstrating once again that impossible is not Cameroon", warns Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi. The problem is that Song's skills are constantly being called into question. Without much experience when he arrived on the Cameroon bench, the former Galatasaray defender doesn't seem to have made much headway.


With a record of 5 wins, 6 draws and 7 defeats in 18 matches, it's not the quality of the players that has often been lacking. It's the way Song uses them.Case in point? During the Qatar World Cup, the Cameroon coach fielded a different eleven in each of his three group matches. This was repeated for the team's last two outings. After a resounding 3-0 victory over Mauritius on November 17, 2023, Song reshuffled his starting eleven four days later in Libya, with Bryan Mbeumo, Yvan Neyou and Moumbagna, who had excelled in the previous match, on the bench this time. The result was an insipid 1-1 draw.

The "rupture" between Eto'o and Onana

Yet consistency and stability could be the keys to success, especially in a tournament as competitive as the AFCON. Can we then hope that Song has learned enough from his mistakes? He'd better have! Having finished third at the last edition, the five-time African champions absolutely must do better.  At the risk of devaluing the policy of nationalizing the Cameroonian bench. Song understands the importance of the challenge. However, he has another pressure point to contend with: the "rift" between André Onana and Samuel Eto'o. Rumours suggest that the Manchester United goalkeeper has yet to patch things up with the Fécafoot president since the end of the 2022 World Cup.


"The relationship between the two men has been at a standstill since André was sidelined during the World Cup in Qatar.
His return to the national team is the result of an instruction from the Cameroon government authorities, while Fécafoot has never taken any initiative in this direction. We're doing everything to keep up appearances within the team. But everyone has seen that since his return, André and Eto'o have been ignoring each other and avoiding each other completely. They are two men with strong personalities, each with a certain influence within the national team. Their relationship has broken down, and this could affect the atmosphere within the team", maintains a source who requested anonymity.

The AFCON 2023 is therefore a crucial test for Rigobert Song, who must not only prove his worth as a tactician but also manage the delicate dynamics within the Cameroon team. The stakes for him go far beyond the soccer pitch.

SNA tells you more!

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