THE Confederations Cup kicks-off this weekend and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the Group B encounter between Cameroon and Chile.
Cameroon v Chile | Sunday 19:00 | ITV4
I labelled Cameroon the “worst Cameroon side in living memory” in my pre-tournament pieces ahead of January’s African Cup of Nations but the Indomitable Lions shrugged off criticism to lift their first continental title since 2002; a remarkable achievement considering the chaos and unrest surrounding the national side over the past few years.
Hugo Broos’ boys were without many top European-based players in Gabon but defied the doubters with a measured and organised approach under the Belgian. The former defender only arrived at the start of 2016 but has overseen an impressive resurgence.
Although Cameroon rarely thrilled AFCON viewers, the side were effective. Aware of their limitations, they sat deep and allowed their opposition onto them, using their pace to spring forward on the counter; speedy winger Christian Bassogog particularly impressing.
In Benjamin Moukandjo and Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon boast good forward threats and the togetherness on and off the pitch has certainly aided their cause.
But like all African outfits, there are negatives. Firstly, the supply line to their two star strikers has struggled a little too often, key left-back Ambroise Oyongo has been ruled out of the tournament last week and familiar wrangles over the non-payment of bonuses has hampered progress.
En-route to AFCON glory the Indomitable Lions scored just seven goals, although their defence shipped just three. They’re expected to stick to the same formula and Broos will set his side up in a traditional 4-4-2 system but I just can’t see Cameroon competing against South America’s leading lights.
The underdogs have suffered only two losses in 17 and little should be read into their 4-0 loss to Colombia – Broos rested the majority of his regulars. But when Cameroon do come against headline opposition, they tend to struggle.
Chile eyeing a third successive title
Chile arrive in Moscow with their golden generation eyeing up a third successive summer of silverware following back-to-back Copa America triumphs but captain Claudio Bravo misses out through injury.
Bravo’s absence should be only a minor inconvenience with Johnny Herrera an able deputy for a nation that’s renowned for their suffocating high-pressing model and exciting, high-tempo, quick passing football.
There’s an experienced core to Juan Antonio Pizzi’s squad – 11 players boast more than 50 international caps – and both Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal have turned out, hungry to make their mark with another title.
Chile have suffered five losses in 14 World Cup qualifying ties and picked up just W1-D1-L4 from their last six away days on their road to Russia. La Roja failed to score in four of those six fixtures but meeting Cameroon on neutral turf should provide a much more level playing turf.
The betting angle
There are concerns over Charles Aranguiz and Paulo Diaz’s form, the Chileans can be weak defending set-pieces and Gary Medel was criticised by team-mate Vidal after being sent off in a shoddy 3-2 friendly defeat against Romania last week – Chile were 2-0 up – but I’m happy to invest faith in the favourites.
Rather than back the skinny 4/7 (Ladbrokes) Match Odds, I’m going to take the 11/10 (BetStars) on Chile winning and Over 1.5 Goals. The South Americans have seen nine of their 11 matches since last summer’s Copa America triumph feature at least two goals.
Cameroon v Chile – Chile to win and Over 1.5 Goals (11/10 BetStars)