Cameroon: No Song, no problem
In football, there are always winners and losers (the exception being those who draw).
However, in the case of Alex Song’s omission from the Volker Finke’s Africa Cup of Nations squad, both Cameroon and West Ham United can both consider themselves winners.
Since that nasty elbow on Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic, which was captured by high resolution cameras at the World Cup in Brazil, the 27-year-old has not featured for the Indomitable Lions.
Throughout the AFCON qualifiers, though, I was left frustrated by Finke’s decisions to continually leave out the midfielder from his squad, and my advocacy was purely based on his scintillating performances under Sam Allardyce.
The final blow, however, has been dealt by way of his omission from Cameroon’s squad for the tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
Nevertheless, it is basically a win-win for all parties involved.
As for Cameroon, Finke has revived the Lions that fumbled terribly at the World Cup without the input of the former Arsenal man. The German tactician has knitted a strong, cohesive midfield unit based on youth and experience with the likes of Eyong Enoh (21), Stephane Mbia (28), Eric Choupo-Moting (25) and Georges Mandjeck (26), all of whom have featured prominently and quite successfully in the middle of the park for Cameroon.
The 4-1 mauling of Ivory Coast during the AFCON qualifiers highlights the ferociousness and understanding they have assumed since Song’s disgraceful red card at the World Cup.
Even I wouldn’t advice Finke to tinker with the fine, harmonious unit he has forged ahead the biggest showpiece in African football, which kicks off in January.
The biggest winners, perhaps, are West Ham and Big Sam, who, before Cameroon’s AFCON squad announcement, were afraid they ‘might have a little worrying spell during the Africa Cup of Nations in January’, which goes to show Song’s importance for the Premier League side.
“We might have a little worrying spell during the Africa Cup of Nations in January,” Allardyce was quoted by the Daily Mail.
‘That’s why I’m not prepared to do any more predictions until they (referring to Song, Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate, both of Senegal) come back.
“We don’t want to get carried away. We just want to keep on playing the football we’re playing at the moment. Everyone is enjoying themselves, there’s a good buzz around the training ground which is always a good sign.”
The Hammers, who have raked in 31 points from 17 games, are currently, and incredibly, fourth on the EPL table (their position before the Boxing Day fixture with league leaders Chelsea) and Song, like Sakho and Kouyate, has been key to their outstanding displays and results.
With his exclusion from Finke’s squad, Allardyce can now breathe easily knowing that he won’t lose all of the steel that has so far made his team thick.
Following his nightmarish episode with Barcelona, which hasn’t quite ended yet being that he only returned to England on loan, many thought the 27-year-old was done for. But under Big Sam, Song has regained unbelievable form, which, rumour has it, has attracted the interest of his former club Arsenal.
In truth, it is quite saddening that we won’t be seeing the eccentric fashionista and touch-tackling midfielder in Equatorial Guinea, but his national team absence is massively consolidated by spectacular club form and importance for the Hammers.
In the end, there are no vanquished in Song’s Cameroon no-show; only winners.