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Cameroon: First Qualifier for World Cup Finals - 2002-05-10

Cameroon was the first nation to qualify for the World Cup football finals in South Korea and Japan, after the automatic berths were filled by the co-hosts and defending champion France. As VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, Cameroon is expecting a great performance in Asia.

Cameroon is making its fifth World Cup appearance, unprecedented for an African nation. So far, the "Indomitable Lions" have played 14 matches in World Cup finals, winning three games, drawing six and losing five. The team's best performance came in 1990 when Cameroon reached the quarterfinals after beating Argentina, Romania and Colombia.

International football (soccer) commentator Derek Rae says Cameroon has since improved and grown as one of the best teams in Africa.

"They have won the last two African Nations Cup [tournaments] and did so in some style last time around in Mali at the beginning of the year," he says. "And what we are seeing from Cameroon now, I think, is a maturity that was missing from their game."

Cameroon is in Group E with three-time World Cup champion Germany, Ireland and Saudi Arabia. Rae says Cameroon fields several players who have honed their skills with some of the best professional football clubs in Europe.

"Some of their players are beginning to perform, people like Lauren, who plays in England with Arsenal, a model professional and somebody who does not seem to lose his head, [and] Patrick Mboma, who has been a formidable striker around Europe for several years [played for Parma and now Sunderland]. This is a team that I think that can worry the Irish, because that is the first game that they play," he says.

Cameroon is building on the history of its thrilling 1990 World Cup run and from the 2000 season when the national team captured the African Cup of Nations and the Sydney Olympics gold medal.