PRETORIA (Reuters) - Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen bowed on Friday to the demands of his senior players to change his starting line up but warned he would not take all the flack as his team needed to accept their own failings.
Cameroon’s World Cup had appeared in disarray in recent days after players openly questioned Le Guen’s selection for their opening match which they lost 1-0 to Japan, the supposed weakest team in the group.
Midfielder Achille Emana said earlier this week the players had called on the coach to review the lineup because younger players, who had been brought in at the expense of more experienced ones, were being asked to do too much.
Le Guen left seasoned campaigners such as midfielder Alexandre Song and defenders Rigobert Song and Geremi on the bench and dropped goalkeeper Carlos Kameni after seven years in the role.
Captain Samuel Eto‘o, one of Africa’s most successful players, was also quieter than normal after playing in a deeper role, prompting the players to urge Le Guen to rethink his plans for the next Group E match against Denmark on Saturday.
”We weren’t good enough,“ Le Guen told a pre-match press conference on Friday, sitting next to Eto‘o. ”We need to take stock of that. There will be three new players in the starting line up.
“I do my job as a coach and as a selector and I‘m fully aware of the responsibilities. I obviously have some guidelines but I‘m not going to be pig-headed about it. It didn’t work and ... I have to be absolutely frank with myself about that.”
Frenchman Le Guen, who had previously won praise for guiding Cameroon through qualification, added it was time his players also admitted their role in the poor performance because they were now in a state of emergency.
“I think they need to face up to their responsibilities as I assume my own responsibilities 100 percent,” he said, after snapping at one journalist who asked about the mood in the camp.
“They have to find a spirit, they often talk about them as lions, having a lion spirit and I very much hope they find this spirit in their match tomorrow.”
The side, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, will play Denmark in Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, with both sides desperately needing a win after Denmark lost 2-0 in their opening tie against the Netherlands.
Eto‘o, who said he would be playing further up the pitch and as close to the goalmouth as possible, said his side had taken heart from Serbia who lost their first match but won their second against Germany.
The three-time winner of the African Footballer of the Year also said he wanted to make it clear there had never been a major row in the Cameroon camp.
“We’ve never had a fight in the national team,” he said. “I‘m the captain because the coach trusts me. Paul Le Guen is paid to make these decisions, we’re here to represent our country and I’ll play wherever he asks me to.” (Editing by Michael Holden)