Cameroon manager defends team

NATAL, Brazil -- Cameroon manager Volker Finke gave an impassioned defense of his team, its preparations, and its mental state ahead of Friday's World Cup opener against Mexico.

A dispute over World Cup bonuses meant the Indomitable Lions arrived in Brazil a day later than planned, and it raised concerns over just how unified the squad is. After all, this is a team that suffered through a disastrous showing at the 2010 World Cup, losing all three games despite having the presumed advantage of playing on its home continent.

But Finke insisted that there was nothing to be worried about, and said that those not familiar with African soccer need to accept that things work differently there.

"There's a tradition that the players and the federation and the government work together in a certain way," he said with the help of a translator. "I think you have to respect the difference in culture. This is not something new, not something that needs to be judged from the outside. Somebody living in Germany or France cannot know how things work in Cameroon."

He added that the dispute and subsequent travel delay has had no impact on his team in terms of its attitude.

"I see my group solid, working seriously," he said. "I see my group united, and all the things on the periphery is something that doesn't necessarily need any comment. Just respect the way things are in Africa, because we found a solution eventually. That's enough for me."

Finke's sentiments were echoed by the players, who are eager to make amends for losing in 2010. There are 13 players on the current roster who suffered through what took place in South Africa four years ago, and defender Nicolas N'Koulou feels that will help the team this time around.

"We missed our tournament completely four years ago," he said. "In four years we've grown, we've matured, we are better, we are stronger. And we will help the younger players who are playing for the World Cup for the first time. We are very united. We have a lot of solidarity between the players. There is a good mixture of experience and youth, so I think the message will go across and play properly."

There had been concerns in recent weeks over the form and fitness of some members of the squad. Finke indicated that midfielders Landry N'Guemo and Edgar Salli aren't fit, though Salli could feature as a substitute. But the Cameroon manager added that Stephane Mbia, Jean Makoun, and captain Samuel Eto'o have recovered sufficiently to be able to feature against Mexico.

"We have some minor injuries, but we don't have a choice, we have to deal with the situation as it is," said Finke. "I'm very, very happy with the progress made by Stephane Mbia, Jean [Makoun], and Samuel [Eto'o]. They're all fit again. They are full-time with the team now, and it's very, very important for all of us. Why? Because Samuel Eto'o and Stephane M'Bia are like dynamos for the team, they are like engines for us, and we definitely count on them. They can make a difference in the game."

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