- As FIFA slams three-match ban on Song
Captain Samuel Eto’o could continue playing for Cameroon until the 2018 World Cup and it is too early to be talking about the 33-year-old forward’s international retirement, coach Volker Finke said on Sunday.
Already eliminated Cameroon take on Brazil in their final Group A match on Monday and Finke told a news conference Eto’o, who has a knee injury, had missed training on Sunday and would only feature for a few minutes against the hosts, if at all.
The German dismissed a suggestion the match at the national stadium in Brasilia could be Eto’o’s 119th and last outing for the Indomitable Lions, who lost their opening two games to Mexico and Croatia.
“Maybe he can play a few minutes but to be in the starting lineup looks out of the question,” Finke said. “I don’t believe in miracles so I very much doubt he will be able to start.”
“In any case, I don’t think it would be his last match with Cameroon. It might not necessarily be his last match at the World Cup,” he said.
“I know he wants to continue two, three years maybe four, which would take him to the next World Cup.
“He needs maybe two or three weeks to be fully fit. Without the knee injury he is a physically fit player and he has two or three good years in him.”
A four-time African Footballer of the Year, Eto’o made his first appearance at a World Cup finals in France in 1998.
The tournament in Brazil is his fourth appearance at soccer’s global showpiece, only the third African player to achieve the feat.
He has won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, in 2000 and 2002, as well as an Olympic gold medal, also in 2000, and is Cameroon’s all-time leading marksman with 54 goals.
Brazil need to avoid defeat on Monday to secure their place in the last 16 and Finke said the pressure on the South Americans might work in Cameroon’s favour.
Whatever the outcome, Cameroon, whose World Cup campaign has been wrecked by infighting and ill-discipline, wanted to sign off with a good performance, he added.
“It’s clear that if it’s a difficult game for Brazil there will be a lot of pressure on their shoulders,” Finke said.
“This is why maybe it will work in our favour. They need to control the game and cannot take any risks.
“For us it doesn’t really matter to be honest. It’s a pity we don’t have any pressure but our previous results were not good enough and we hope to leave with our heads held high.
“It’s very important for each player for the reputation of Cameroon soccer. We don’t want to leave the World Cup on another negative note.”
Meanwhile, Cameroon midfielder Alex Song has been banned for three matches after his sending off in their World Cup Group A defeat by Croatia, organisers FIFA said on Sunday.
The midfielder was dismissed for elbowing Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic in the back during the first half of their 4-0 defeat in Manaus on Wednesday which meant they could no longer qualify for the knockout stages.