AFCON 2015 Preview: Mali v Cameroon
Stephane Mbia has heaped praise on coach Volker Finke for uniting the Cameroon camp ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations Group D opener with Mali on Tuesday.
Cameroon are one of the most successful teams in AFCON history having won the competition on four occasions, their last success coming in 2002 when they beat host nation Mali in the semi-finals on the way to the title.
However, Finke presided over a dreadful World Cup campaign last year, which saw the team arrive late in Brazil due to a row over bonus payments and fail to earn a single point as they finished bottom of their group.
The divide in the camp was made obvious in their second pool game versus Croatia, in which Alex Song was sent-off for elbowing Mario Mandzukic and Benoit Assou-Ekotto directed a headbutt at team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo.
Cameroon's campaign was also marred by match-fixing claims, but this squad has a much different look to the one that failed in Brazil.
Song and Samuel Eto'o have retired from international duty and Mbia - who has replaced the latter as captain but is suspended Tuesday's clash in Malabo - believes there is a better mentality in the group this time around.
"The Cameroon team are in a rebuilding stage, but we need to be well prepared for this 2015 AFCON finals which is very important for our country and for us players," Mbia said.
"We are also here to prepare for the 2019 AFCON that will take place at home.
"He [Finke] has been able to impose his decisions and discipline which will be our strength in the coming years.
"We are all pulling in the same direction and if you have teammates who are all prepared to work for each other - I think that shows what the mood within the squad is like."
Mali will be outsiders in a group that also contains the Ivory Coast and saw their hopes dealt a blow earlier this month after striker Cheick Diabate was ruled out of the tournament due to a knee problem.
The West Africans are coming off two consecutive third-place finishes in the AFCON, but coach Henryk Kasperczak is refusing to look past the group stages.
"Cameroon are experiencing a transition phase with a new generation of players as Mali are," Kasperczak said.
"Even if the two teams appear as favourites, all the fixtures in this group will be crucial to qualify to the quarter-finals."
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