By Afeseh Apong
Cameroon’s coach Antonio Conceição has admitted that his side had a difficult start to their game against Ethiopia on Thursday, just as was the case against Burkina Faso last Sunday.
For the second time running, the lions conceded first, with Dawa Hotessa putting Ethiopia ahead just after four minutes. This was the same scenario against Burkina Faso, when Gustavo Fabrice Sangaré opened scores, though the indomitable lions came from behind to win both games.
The Portuguese gaffer explained during his post_match press conference on Thursday that his players did not understand the game plan from the onset and it worked in favor of the opponents.
“We had some problems at the start of the game. The team did not understand the game plan from the onset and the opponent actually took advantage to score, but we reacted good, played offensively and came back into the game. At half time I recalled to the players that we had a game plan and it was important for them to respect this game plan. After that we actually improved on positioning, game plan and ball possession. I think we reacted well especially in the second half. We are concious that we have to be more focused and rigorous in our game,” Conceição told the press.
The lions have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their two AFCON outings, but Conceição said the objective has always been to win games.
“We created more scoring opportunities and were able to score four goals. Defensively, there were some loopholes, problems with the positioning of the players and unfortunately we conceded. The opponents also had a good offensive style, but in the second half we had to adjust certain things, to better protect our camp. Offensively and defensively, we actually tried to improve ourselves.
Goalkeeper André Onana has come under scrutiny, with many judging his display this far as not commanding enough. Conceição quashed away such thoughts, reiterating his keepers qualities.
“Onana is a world class goalkeeper and every team would love to have him in their ranks,” Conceição added.
Cameroon’s four one bashing of Ethiopia gave them the opportunity to give game time to other players, with the likes of Oyongo Bitolo, James Lea Siliki, Stéphane Bahoken and Ignatius Ganago, all getting their first minutes of AFCON 2021. Questions were asked about Zambo Anguissa staying on for the totality of the game despite his below par performance.
“I think that all the players deserve to be on the pitch. We have players of reference as individuals in the group. We’re using all the opportunities. Oyongo Bitolo for example played well. To be candid, in the second half when the results were favorable for us, we felt that Zambo could stay at the midfield. All players can be changed, depending on the mission I’m going to give to each player in the pitch,” Conceiçao said of his decision to bring in fresh blood but allow Zambo play on.
After going in for a 3_5_2 formation in the opening game against Burkina Faso last Sunday, Conceiçao reverted to a 4_4_2 formation against Ethiopia. The tactician has previously indicated that he sets up his game plan depending on the opponent in front of him.
“We wanted to come out with a new impetus to be able to score goals, and that is what happened. We added more strikers especially for air balls and free kicks. So it is the system that we decided to set up.
“There’s no coach that will completely want to change his formation in the second half. Certain adjustments can be made based on the mindset that we want to inculcate to the players. So we tried to change the positioning in the second half. We wanted our team to quickly score goals and we had a good build up play which gave us the goals.
The indomitable lions are already through to the eighth final, as they top group A with six points. Cameroon is also the highest scoring team of AFCON 2021 this far, with six goals scored. Conceiçao and his boys will end the group phase on Monday, with a game against Cape Verde.
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