YAOUNDÉ, May 11- Cameroon have brilliant players like Samuel Eto’o but keeping them together holds the key to 2014 World Cup success as the team makes a record seventh appearance by an African country.
Squad cliques were blamed for a disastrous 2010 tournament in South Africa with the ‘Indomitable Lions’ losing all three matches they played. The same cannot happen in Group A this year against hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico.
Captain and star striker Eto’o was at the centre of the 2010 storm as some players backed him while others sided with deposed skipper Rigobert Song.
French coach Paul le Guen replaced ageing Song with former Barcelona and Inter Milan star Eto’o a year before the World Cup.
The move opened deep wounds with Barcelona midfielder Alex Song, a relative of Rigobert, among those who shunned the national team for a long time after the debacle.
However, Sevilla midfielder Stephane Mbia believes Cameroon, the first of only three African nations to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, can present a united front in Brazil.
“Everybody is ready to listen to each other and to make sacrifices,” he told Cameroon media.
“We are ready to give our best for the sake of the country, our team-mates and ourselves.”
But not everyone is convinced and Eto’o complained that team-mates refused to pass him the ball during a play-off in Tunisia late last year.
Defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto from English second-tier outfit Queen’s Park Rangers condemned other players in an interview.
“This team compares favourably with the one which reached the 1990 quarter-finals in terms of technique and skill.
“But when the players meet they all consider themselves big shots from so-called top clubs and silly little problems spoil the changeroom atmosphere.
“Many of us are parents with young kids, but it is us adults who are acting like children. We need to change our mindsets and put the egos aside.”
Haphazard preparations have also previously hampered Cameroon, who have won just one of 12 World Cup games since the last-eight loss to England 24 years ago.
Mbia said: “We must prepare better than in 2010 because we are in a difficult group.”
Record five-time world champions and hosts Brazil are overwhelming favourites to top Group A, leaving Cameroon, Croatia and Mexico to scrap for the other second-round place.
Francois Omam-Biyik, a star of the 1990 squad inspired by Roger Milla, fears the ‘Lions’ will be among early departures from South America.
“Cameroon cannot get past the first round because although they have quality footballers, the team does not play as a unit.
“Everybody believes he is a star and it will be tough winning against a Brazilian team with home advantage, and Croatia and Mexico,” he said.
German coach Volker Finke plans to prove the doubters wrong and says 33-year-old Chelsea goal poacher Eto’o will play a vital role.
“Samuel is back to his best level at Chelsea. He is the best Cameroonian footballer and can make a big difference.”
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje, centre-back Nicolas Nkoulou, midfielders Jean Makoun and Song and striker Benjamin Moukandjo are other key figures.