Niigata, Japan (PANA) – Former ace Cameroonian goalkeeper Thomas Nkono, currently the « Indomitable Lions » assistant coach, has stressed the importance of a victory during his national football team’s first World Cup match against Ireland on Saturday.
« For me, the first match in a competition like the World Cup or the Cup of Nations should be taken as though it is a final », he said in Niigita Wednesday, three days before the encounter.
Victory in the open liberates the team of future pressures, added the assistant coach of the African soccer champions.
Assessing the atmosphere within this year’s World Cup squad, Nkono said « there is much more solidarity and cohesion in this team than it was during Italia 90.
« We are a harmonious family and the quality of friendship here is deep rooted, » said Nkono, who replaced Joseph Antoine Bell as goalkeeper a few hours to the opener between Cameroon and Argentina in Milan in the June 1990 World Cup.
Nkono welcomed the lifting of sanctions imposed on him last February by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) following an incident with the police during the African Cup of Nations finals in Mali.
He noted that this took a load from his chest « although deep inside me, I knew I was a victim of circumstances and I had nothing to reproach myself ».
Meanwhile, Nkono said the friendly match against England was a welcome opportunity because it « helped us know the capacity of the entire team in a new environment ».
Ahead of Saturday’s match, Nkono said optimistically that « the boys are determined to pick three points and position themselves better for the next two matches of the first phase ».
On the quality of preparations, Nkono stated: « Nothing is being left to chance. Our technical crew under the dynamic leadership of head coach Winfried Schafer (of Germany) is leaving no stone unturned to prepare the boys physically, technically and tactically for the challengers ahead ».
The Indomitable Lions will arrive in Niigata Friday, a day before their opening match against Ireland.
Meanwhile, a Cameroonian delegation led by the youth and sports minister Bidoung Mkpatt is expected to arrive Niigat Thursday.
A Boeing 747-200 will fly in the Cameroonian delegation composed of government functionaries, FECAFOOT officials, journalists, dancers, artists and a broad spectrum of football fans.
The same jet took the Indomitable Lions through a 44-hour trip from Paris via Bombay to Fokouka.
Meanwhile, Irish national soccer team fans have started Trickling into Niigata to witness Saturday’s match.
Informed sources within the Irish community said that at least 6,000 football fans are expected to be in Niigata by the time the Cameroon-Ireland match kicks-off.
Hotel is in the Japanese city have already booked to capacity with a festive mood all over. Niigita city dwellers are already taking sides in the drinking houses and clubs.
The presence of Patrick Mboma, who once played in the Japanese league with Gomba Osaka, is winning overwhelming local support in favour of the equatorial Lions.
But the estimated over 6,000 Irish football fans are expected to outnumber the scores of Cameroonians during Saturday’s opening match at the Niigata Swan stadium.
Although numerically inferior, the Cameroonian ministry of culture has included three dance groups among the less than 200 supporters flying to cheer the team in Japan.
The 43,000 seat Niigata Swan stadium will host three matches, two in the first round and one in the knock out series.
Financial Times Information Ltd – Asia Africa Intelligence Wire
Source: ASIA AFRICA INTELLIGENCE WIRE
PAN AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (PANA)