DOUALA, Cameroon (AP) — Although Volker Finke's appointment as national team coach was surrounded by controversy in football-loving Cameroon, the German believes his "Finke Method" has already started to pay off.
Finke replaced the popular Jean Paul Akono a year ago. Widespread criticism followed, including accusations from Akono that team sponsor Puma forced the country's football federation to hire Finke.
Ignoring it all, the former mathematics teacher flew to Yaounde to sign a two-year deal, insisting he was not in Cameroon on a short-term basis. His first task was to give the team a new direction by developing cohesion within a squad well-known for its internal dissent.
"The team twice failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations and did very badly at the 2010 World Cup, finishing with zero points," Finke told FIFA.com. "They were very divided. Within the squad we've spoken together a great deal in the last few months. Thanks to that we've arrived at a point where, together with the captain Samuel Eto'o, a very good team spirit has developed."
The "Finke Method" was first on display when Cameroon beat Tunisia in the World Cup playoffs, but the joy of qualification was hardly unanimous.
"He lacks the competence to take Cameroon to Brazil. The players' individual efforts secured qualification," former Cameroon great Roger Milla said. "For the World Cup, we need a coach who understands football."
Despite a 5-1 rout at the hands of Portugal in a friendly match in March, Finke remains hopeful that his players will be able to produce in Brazil.
"If you want to win in football the team has to maintain its concentration at all times and play well collectively," Finke said. "In every team you have players who can make the difference. Of course, for us that's Samuel in attack. But in midfield we have Alexandre Song and at the back we've got Nicolas N'Koulou and Aurelien Chedjou, so that's three more players who make up the spine of our game. Those four are crucial to us."
Despite a dispute with Eto'o, Finke has succeeded in imposing himself as the sole leader in the team. Even the loss to Portugal was not enough to undermine his authority. But having been drawn in Group A against Brazil, Croatia and Mexico, Finke knows the size of the task awaiting him.
"Of course we're in a situation where we're underdogs," Finke said, "but we're going to the World Cup to reach the knockout rounds."