Coach Rigobert Song said on Wednesday that rankings meant nothing as he backed his unusual Cameroon side to become the latest team to suffer a World Cup shock.
Cameroon head into their eighth World Cup, but the 1990 quarter-finalists are not the force they were – they are ranked a lowly 43rd and only narrowly qualified for Qatar.
Their previous World Cup win was back in 2002 and they will be heavy underdogs in Group G, which also features the higher-ranked trio of Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland.
But Saudi Arabia stunned Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-1 on Tuesday, and a day later Japan similarly beat Germany by the same scoreline.
Former national team defender and captain Song said it was proof that Cameroon can spring a surprise themselves, starting against the Swiss on Thursday.
“We have already seen surprises in this World Cup, we respect our opponents, but on the field you will see who is stronger,” said the 46-year-old Cameroonian football legend known as “The Big Chief”.
“Rankings go out the window when you’re on the football field.”
Song, a former Liverpool defender who only became Cameroon coach in March, said his men had been able to prepare for the World Cup without the distraction of the past.
“We are very relieved and satisfied that the mistakes of the past have not been repeated,” he said.
“We had no disputes about wages or money – things have changed in the FA now that (former striker) Samuel Eto’o is president.
“He’s a hard worker, there every day to make sure the players are as fit as possible.
“We hope that this time we will be calm, prepared and focused.”
Song has played in four World Cups and hopes he can use that experience to help his team cope with the pressure in Qatar, especially the younger players.
“When I talk to the young generation that knows what to do, I just try to support them and help them manage their emotions in this tournament and try to avoid the mistakes of the past,” he said.