By Philip O’Connor
DOHA (Reuters) – Cameroon manager Rigobert Song has enjoyed a quiet build-up to the Qatar World Cup and is hoping it will benefit his squad in their opening Group G game against Switzerland at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday.
Song, who played in four World Cup finals as a player, said that the country’s football association had learned the lessons of the past and that the current structure provided a great foundation for success at the tournament.
Previous Cameroon World Cup teams have been hindered by internal conflicts and disputes over pay and bonuses.
“We are very calm, and we’re pleased that all of the mistakes we’ve made in the past have not been repeated, We haven’t had any disputes about wages, about money, things have changed,” Song told reporters on Wednesday.
“The CFA has (former striker) Samuel Eto’o as president, he’s a hard worker, he’s there every day trying to make sure the players are as well prepared as possible. We’ve seen mistakes made in the past, but this time we’re calm we’re ready, we’re focused,” he added.
The Indomitable Lions haven’t won a group game at the World Cup since defeating Saudi Arabia in 2002, and Song is hoping that his experience – including being sent off at two different tournaments – will enable him to help his side.
“That experience is helpful when I talk to the young generation, they are professional, they know what they have to do, I’m just trying to support them, to help them do the best they can,” the 46-year-old said.
Song was tight-lipped about his line-up and who would captain the team, but he was joined at the news conference by midfielder Samuel Oum Gouet, who said the squad is looking forward to getting going in the tournament.
“We’re very excited about being here. Any footballer or manager who gets to the World Cup is very excited, and we’re very focused,” the 24-year-old said.
With FA president Eto’o saying that his nation could win the tournament, Song said little that might dampen those expectations.
“We know we are at a very good level and the organisation behind the scenes is good as well, so the footballers can focus on their job, I think that’s why we’re more focused today and there’s no doubt in our minds what we are capable of,” he said.
“They are a very strong group, but perhaps I can make them even stronger.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge)