Cameroon will put a five-match winning streak against Mozambique on the line this Friday in their third match in the second round of World Cup 2022 qualifying at Stade Omnisports.
Both sides lost their second game in Group D, as the Southern Africans fell 1-0 to Malawi while the Indomitable Lions conceded two early goals in a 2-1 defeat versus the Ivory Coast.
One of the most successful footballing nations in African history have fallen on hard times as Cameroon missed out on the 2018 finals for the first time since 2006.
They may not have the same vibrant and dynamic squad who captured our imagination at the 1990 World Cup, making it to the quarter-finals, but they still have a solid group of individuals who can bring this team back to the international stage.
As they prepare to host the African Cup of Nations early next year, the job for manager Toni Conceicao will be to get his players to show a little more consistency than they have throughout the year.
In 2021 his team have had a string of good and bad results, blanking Zimbabwe in their first game of a four-match unbeaten run, then losing three straight in between February and March, but coming into this stage of qualifying on a high note with a win and then a draw versus Nigeria.
Having lost to two nations ranked 18 and 19 places below them in the current FIFA World Rankings (Guinea and Cape Verde) should serve as a warning not to take this match for granted.
Since beating Egypt to capture their fifth African Cup of Nations in 2017, they have struggled when trailing, winning only one match in all competitions since that triumph after conceding the opening goal.
The first two fixtures of this group for Mozambique have been challenging, as they have failed to score each time, while struggling to generate a lot of quality chances.
Os Mambas got to this stage thanks to a pair of solid performances versus Mauritius, scoring early in both legs of that opening round tie and advancing on a 3-1 aggregate.
Horacio Goncalves saw his side perform admirably in the recent COSAFA Cup, where they made it to the semi-finals and narrowly missed out on a medal, conceding an 89th-minute equaliser to Eswatini before falling on penalties in the match for bronze.
Their 2018 campaign was their best since they first entered the qualification process for the 1994 finals, as they lost 4-3 in a penalty shootout to Gabon after each side won their home fixture by a 1-0 score.
Opening this round with a 0-0 draw against the former two-time African champions had to make them feel pretty good about themselves, but results like that one have been few and far between for this team.
Scoring goals has been a significant problem for them, having been shut out in seven of their 10 matches this year, while they have been outscored 17-5 all-time in six previous meetings with Cameroon.
Cameroon World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Cameroon form (all competitions):
Mozambique World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Mozambique form (all competitions):
We say: Cameroon 2-0 Mozambique
The five-time African champions have struggled this year against teams within their own continent, but there is a lot of promise to this new crop of talent, many of whom are mainstays in Europe, and they know that in order to make it beyond this stage, they have to top their group, so keeping pace with the Ivory Coast should be motivation enough.
Mozambique have a team consisting of players who are primarily in their early 20s, many of whom lack experience on the international stage, and despite a draw in their opener, it is hard to envision them being able to do anything besides keeping their opponents at bay for as long as possible.