Friday, June 11, 2010

The Indomitable Lions

I have a confession to make: In international play, I rarely root for the United States men's team, although, in fairness, I never actively root against them. I know it's unkind and probably unpatriotic, but nationalism does not dictate my sports allegiances. It's not like the American's make it easy on soccer fans. Their uneven play leaves me cold, and Landon Donovan's mercurial performances make me apoplectic. With that much natural talent, he should play at a high level every time he sets foot on the pitch. That said, I will pull for the U.S. against England, those blimey bastards, and keep at least one eye on the rest of their matches, however many they end up playing.

During the World Cup, I usually rally around an African team, more often than not Nigeria. This year, though, I'm getting behind Cameroon's Indomitable Lions, a formidable team led by the wonderfully named Samuel Eto'o, a talented striker, and central defender Rigoberto Song. The team is coached by Frenchman Paul Le Guen, who was hired during qualifying matches after the Lions dropped an early match to Togo. Upon his hiring, Le Guen handed over the captaincy from Song to Eto'o, and the Lions have played well ever since, with Song finally playing up to form and Eto'o finding the back of the net with regularity. Like SI's Grant Wahl, I expect Cameroon to advance out of Group E, along with the Netherlands, before knocking off the Azzurri in the second round.

So, that happened. After their 1-0 loss to Japan, Cameron's chances of advancing out of the group stage, are now pegged at an uninspiring 18 percent, according to 538. In like lions, out like lambs.

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