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Cameroon swap chaos for German efficiency

© Reuters 2002

By Brian Homewood

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Cameroon, famous for maverick strikers like Roger Milla and in-fighting among officials, has showed a different side to their character as they won their fourth African Nations Cup with German-style efficiency.

The Indomitable Lions, who beat Senegal on penalties to retain the title they won in Nigeria and Ghana two years ago, still possess the exuberant swagger that delighted the world in 1990 when they became the first African team to reach a World Cup quarter-final.

But the tactical naivety and bickering that wrecked subsequent attempts to better that effort appeared to have been conquered during the three-week tournament in Mali.

Cameroon went through all six matches plus extra time in the final on Sunday without conceding a goal as the influence of Winfried Schafter, the first German to coach the national side, became apparent. Their performances suggest they are well placed to go one better than in 1990 as they lead Africa's challenge at the World Cup in Korea and Japan.

"We all know what the Germans are like, they are tactically very disciplined, and this helps - the mixture of everything makes the team stronger," said midfielder Laurent Etame Mayer. Fullback Geremi Fotso Njitap, who plays with Spanish giants Real Madrid, added: "Let's say that when Cameroon play now, we look a bit like Germany.

"We are lucky to have a German, we are learning German things with him and it's doing us good. "We have to admit that there was a lack of discipline beforehand, we accept this, but this was more a problem with the directors.

"But now the directors know that in football we can achieve a lot, but they know for that to happen we have to be disciplined."

AFRICAN ADVENTURE
Schafer, who took over in September but still does not speak French and communicates by gestures, said he was enjoying every minute of his African adventure after spending his entire playing and coaching career in Germany. "I have a great family at home but I haven't been homesick once, they are a top team with a strong character," he told Reuters.

"Senegal were a good team but we were better." Senegal, who have qualified for their first World Cup finals, also showed enough promise to worry their first round opponents.

The pace of El Hadj Ousseynou Diouf in attack and the free kick specialities of midfielder Khalilou Fadiga are

particular strengths.

The Lions of Teranga, who like Cameroon combine physical strength with good technique, were the revelation of the tournament as they knocked favourites Nigeria out in the semifinal after beating Egypt in the first round. "We have now proven to everybody the talent and quality in our squad," said captain Aliou Cisse. "Senegal is now highly respected in Africa."

BACK-FLIPS
But Africa's other three World Cup representatives - Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia - were all disappointing. Although Ukrainian-based striker Julius Aghahowa, who scored three goals and celebrated with his trademark back-flips, had a good tournament, the Super Eagles were a huge let-down despite finishing third.

Big name players such as Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu and Paris St Germain's Austin Okocha produced inconsistent displays, with Okocha being booed off when he was substituted during the semifinal defeat by Senegal.

Few observers believe coach Shaibu Amodu will still be in his job when the World Cup finals begin on May 31. South Africa scraped through the first round, drawing their first two games 0-0, before bowing out meekly to Mali, as they failed to produce a threatening shot on goal in their 2-0 defeat.

Tunisia coach Henri Michel publicly criticised his players as they were knocked out in the first round without scoring a goal in 270 minutes of desperately dull football.

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