2017 FIFA Confed. Cup: Can Cameroon reproduce the Roger Milla magic against Chile? (Preview by Vincent Obi, PANA Editor)

Moscow, Russia (PANA) - The champions of Africa and South America meet on Sunday in the opening Group B match at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup taking place in Russia.

The big question being asked across the world is "Can Cameroon, the African champions, beat Chile, the Champions of South America when they meet at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow?

The answer could be "YES" if you remember Roger Milla's World Cup exploits and that the Indomitable Lions will be playing to pay their respect to the late Marc-Vivien Foé who slumped and died playing for Cameroon in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. Memories like this to fire the Cameroonians.

However, neither Cameroon not Chile has the momentum heading into this match after they lost their respective warm-up matches last week. Cameroon put in a lack-lustre performance as they were routed 4-0 by Colombia, while Chile surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Romania.

Cameroon and Chile have met only once before, in a 1998 FIFA World Cup group stage match, and that encounter ended in 1-1 tie.

Ahead of their second meeting on Sunday, Cameroon have overcome a dark period in their footballing history, having been mired in player boycott controversy as well as a ban from international football but 2017 has heralded a new dawn for the side as they won the Africa Cup of Nations in January, overcoming the likes of Senegal, Ghana and Egypt (whom they beat 2-1 in the final) along the way.

Prior to that, the Indomitable Lions shared 2nd place in the Group with Burkina Faso collecting 5 points, after playing 2 draws (1-1 against Burkina Faso and 0:0 with hosts Gabon) and beating only Guinea-Bissau 2:1.

Their Confederations Cup manager, Hugo Broos, has assembled a young and exciting squad and his side will be an unknown quantity in the tournament. World attention, throughout the tournament, will be on star striker, Vincent Aboubakar.

The 25-year-old, on loan at Besiktas, has taken on the mantle from Samuel Eto’o to grab the bulk of the goals for the Cameroonians and he will, again, be tasked with grabbing the all-important goals for his side. Aboubakar will have Benjamin Moukandjo and Georges Mandjeck as his support strikers.

And at the back, veteran goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa will be the man facing the Chilean firepower on Sunday, and the Sevilla Atletico goalie will need to be on his guard against Alexis Sanchez and co.

Chile have enjoyed a successful period in their footballing history in the last few years, having managed to win the Copa America and the special Centenario edition of the same tournament in the last two years while also reaching the Round of 16 in the World Cup.

Ahead of the Confederations Cup in Russia, Juan Antonio Pizzi has a settled and experienced squad at his disposal, with the core group of key first-team players playing alongside each other for several years now.

And despite the disappointing result against Romania last week, the Chile coach has a solid defensive unit under him, starting with Claudio Bravo, who has been a rock between the sticks for La Roja. Ahead of him, the likes of Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla, Gonzalo Jara and Eugenio Mena make for a reliable back-four.

The star performance of the side, though, is supplied by the midfield and attack, with the likes Arturo Vidal, Charlez Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz providing the steel in the centre of the park, while Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas unleash the firepower up front.

Chile are participating in the Confederations Cup for the first time in their history, having only won the Copa America for the first time in 2014, while the Africans are playing in the Confederations Cup for the third time. Their previous two appearances came in the 2001 and 2003 editions.

Chile's goal-scoring human machine over the past few years, Eduardo Vargas, is set to be the man under the spotlight. Last year, the 27-year-old was the top scorer in the Copa America Centenario ahead of the much fancied Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and others.

In the Confederations Cup in Russia this year, the onus will again be on Vargas to get the all-important goals for La Roja. With the in-form Alexis Sanchez alongside him, he could set this tournament on fire as well, and his goals could again be the difference for the South American giants.

Forecasters are predicting a 2-0 win for Chile, but in tournaments like this, the under-dogs are capable of upsetting the apple cart.

Remember the legendary Roger Milla who  played in three World Cups for Cameroon.

He achieved international stardom at 38 years old, an age at which most attackers have retired, by scoring four goals at the 1990 FIFA World Cup. He helped Cameroon become the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals. Four years later, at the age of 42, he became the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history by scoring against Russia in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

He is also remembered for his trademark goal celebration of running to the corner flag and performing a dance. In the years that have followed, he was recognised as a pioneer of the many unconventional and imaginative goal celebrations seen since then. He was named one of the 125 greatest living football players in 2004 by Brazilian footballer Pelé. In 2007, he was named by the Confederation of African Football as the best African player of the previous 50 years.

Until the referee's final whistle, Cameroon cannot be written off because the African youngsters will be looking to reproduce the Roger Milla magic and have the late Marc-Vivien Foé "smile" in his grave.
-0- PANA VAO 18June2017

18 june 2017 08:17:52

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