Successful qualification is surely symptomatic of stability and consistency but in the case of two African teams heading to South Africa, drastic change could be on the cards.
Algeria and Cameroon, two of the continent’s six representatives at the upcoming tournament, have named preliminary squads with an unusually high number of previously uncapped players, who received a call-up to the squad at this late stage of World Cup preparations.
Algeria has picked more players from among the ranks of former French junior internationals of north African origin to supposedly bolster their squad, despite reaching the semifinals at January’s African Nations Cup finals in Angola.
Cameroon have nine uncapped players in their preliminary list of 30, even though coach Paul Le Guen is insisting he has in his head the rump of the 23-man squad that will be going to the finals next month.
But for the next two weeks, the newcomers have the possibility to impress enough to change his mind, as is the case with the Algerians now training at altitude at Crans-Montana in Switzerland.
Conversely, the signals sent out by these shock selections are patently negative. Making as many drastic changes as Algeria and Cameroon are contemplating is to suggest the team that qualified for the World Cup is no longer up to the task of participating in the tournament.
Algeria’s coach Rabah Saadane has made his new choices based on a brief European tour he undertook in February and March, with the specific intention of searching for more Franco-Algerian talent to supposedly beef up his squad.
Basically, on the basis of one match’s observation, in come the unheralded likes of Carl Medjani, a former under-17 world champion and Liverpool prospect now wallowing in the mediocrity of France’s Ligue 2; Ryad Boudebouz, a promising 20-year-old from Sochaux and Habib Belaid, loaned out in January to relegated Boulogne.
It is a potentially unhealthy gamble to change significantly the dynamics of a previously successful group with the introduction of so many new faces, most of whom have little credible claim to be better than those they are replacing.
Algeria have had a miraculous last six months, first eliminating reigning African champions Egypt in their World Cup play-off and then finishing fourth at the Nations Cup in Angola.
Contrast those achievements with their lengthy sojourn in the doldrums over the last decade and you have to wonder why the sudden need for so many new changes.
Coach Paul Le Guen engineered an impressive turn around with Cameroon in his first six months in charge and did superbly to qualify the side for South Africa. They were less convincing in the Nations Cup in Angola, but nine new additions suggests a crisis of confidence in the coach’s head.
Admittedly all 32 World Cup finalists will do a lot of tweaking this close to the start of the tournament.
But the need for such a drastic overhaul of the squad paints only a picture of panic.
From a blog by SuperSports’ Mark Gleeson, posted on cbc.ca (May 18)
Original Title: Drastic changes for Algeria, Cameroon?