By Beng Emmanuel
Joel Matip and Nicolas Nkoulou are Cameroon’s most vauted defenders having left an indelible mark from their time with the men’s senior national football team. Both centre backs have reached the acme of European football which ranks them amongst the very best on the continent.
Unfortunately, the audacious defenders have shun away from international duties despite calls from football stakeholders to reintegrate the Lions den. Their purposely denial to end a self imposed retirement from international football has left many Cameroonians wonder if truly they remain irreplaceable or merely an option.
With the African Cup of Nations eight months away, the debate on whether they should be recalled remains uninterrupted as Cameroon braces up to their sixth continental trophy on home soil.
Joel Matip withdrew from the national team in 2015,shortly after the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he played twice and scored against host Brazil. The 28-year-old disclosed he was unhappy with the national team set-up coupled with his bad experience with the coaching staff at the time. He had previously featured for Cameroon during the 2010 World Cup having opted to play for the Lions on March 2,2010 aged 18. The rest is history. In 2017,the former Schalke 04 player was selected for the afcon but rejected the callup. However, Cameroon won the tournament without him. Matip helped Liverpool win the UEFA Champions League and the Super Cup. He was voted PFA player for the month of September in September 2019 and has been named man of the match with the reds quite often.
Nicolas Nkoulou has a similar story to tell. He last played for the five time African Champion in 2017 during the Nations cup were he scored in the final against Egypt. Since 2008-2017 Nkoulou has earned 75 caps for Cameroon scoring twice. He’s presently a regular for Italian side Torino in the Italian Serie A.
There’s been plenty of attempts to seduce the defensive duo cancel their exile. According to Afrik foot,in January 2020, Cameroon’s Minister of Sport and Physical Education, Prof Narcisse Mouelle Kombi met with Jean Matip,father of Joel Matip in a bit to urge Anfield full back to reconsider his decision. Similarly,the Portuguese trainer António Conceição da Silva Oliveira discussed with Nkoulou regarding his return to the Lions den.
“If [Nicolas] Nkoulou and [Joel] Matip, for example, have chosen not to come back again, it is because there have been problems in the past,” the Portuguese trainer said in an interview with Cameroon Tribune [kick442.com gathered from goal.com].
Although Cameroon won the 2017 African Cup of Nations with a newborn squad, their defence anchored by Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Adolphe Teikeu had undenying problems. In most games, the Lions backline was literally far from being at their-a better team could surely have caused them severe damages. It was virtually the same scenario last year in Egypt where the backline crumbled at some point and frequently opened at the back.
Surely,the terrific combination offered by Nicolas Nkoulou and Joel Matip appears to be a remedy capable of banishing any offensive threats if they have to feature for Cameroon given their vast experience. The exploits of Benin,South Africa and Madagascar during the previous nations cup has urged the continental giants uncover their major flaws and recruit the more qualified.
Indispensable as they seem, Cameroon can genuinely count on uprising defenders who should be able to sit in for the vaunted old guards when need be.
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