These Lions are perfectly tameable

Cameroon's Indomitable Lions could be the first of a host of African teams to exit the continent's first World Cup.

    A certain myth has grown up around Cameroon in the past 20 years since reaching the quarter-finals of the Italia 1990 World Cup.

    Much like the myth that England are a major footballing power, the perception is that the "Indomitable Lions" are giants of African football – a flagship for the continent.

    This was a record sixth appearance at a World Cup finals for an African nation.

    And what is their best showing? That quarter-final defeat to England in Naples.

    For context, MC Hammer was hitting the charts with Can't Touch This. Feel old? So should Cameroon.

    On Saturday they became the first team to go out of South Africa 2010 after defeats to Japan and Denmark.

    That's right. JAPAN.

    And DENMARK.

    It's easy to see why Cameroon hold affection in the world's eyes.

    Such was the draw of this exotic team in green shirts, red shorts and yellow socks back in 1990 – and a skin colour that I had not had much exposure to as a nine-year-old in the north of England – that I cried when the English beat them.

    Milla's tale

    I felt sad for them. They played with joy and adventure, and were led by the talismanic Roger Milla, who is a true footballing great.

    As an impressionable child, who would you rather have beaming at you out of your television screen – Milla or Peter Beardsley?

    I redeemed myself by crying even more when England were brutally undone by West Germany in the semis. But that's beside the point.

    There is no room for sentiment on the football pitch.

    Cameroon's demise is most likely the thin end of the wedge. Other African teams are about to be squeezed out of the continent's first World Cup.

    The official "This Time for Africa" theme song could sound rather hollow by the second round. Well, it is sung by a Colombian.

    I was in Rustenburg yesterday for the Australia v Ghana match in Group D.

    The Black Stars reached the Africa Cup of Nations final back in January, losing narrowly to a superb Egypt side.


    On Saturday they went weakly behind before pulling one back with a penalty that also saw the Socceroos down to 10 men for more than an hour of the match. It finished 1-1.

    Ghana are probably Africa's best bet.

    Nigeria have lost twice, South Africa have one point from two games, Cote d'Ivoire weren't brilliant against Portugal and now face Brazil, Algeria have a tough task against USA and Cameroon are heading back to Yaounde.

    In terms of sentiment, the neutral wants to see Africa do well. In a perfect world, the hosts' Bafana Bafana would go on to win the World Cup.

    But sport doesn't make allowances for that. If you are a poor team you will go out whether you are Germany, South Korea or Nigeria.

    Cameroon's quarter-final in 1990 and Senegal's 12 years later are Africa's best.

    And with their players dominating top European leagues, they are running out of excuses.

    It's harder to have affection for the likes of Italy and Argentina than it is for the underdogs of Africa.

    Those underdogs need to stop being petted and start biting.


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