Cameroon's road to Russia 2018 goes through Algeria.
The third and final round of CAF qualifying for the next World Cup sees 20 teams divided into five groups of four. Group winners go through to Russia. Everyone else stays home.
It is an unforgiving set-up, and Cameroon paid a heavy price for having sunk to 59th in the FIFA Word Rankings used to seed qualified teams for the draw. The Indomitable Lions are grouped with Algeria ("The best team in Africa," says Cameroon head coach Hugo Broos), Nigeria (2013 Africa Cup of Nations champion; qualifier for five of the last six World Cups), and Zambia (2012 Africa Cup of Nations champion).
This round of qualifying will run until November 2017, but Cameroon is starting with its most difficult game first: Algeria is the top-seeded team in the group and Broos is not being flattering when he says the North African side is currently Africa's best. Playing the group favorite on the road is not going to be easy for Cameroon.
The Lions' head coach is also, of course, indulging a little expectations management. He has the difficult task of transitioning the Cameroon squad away from the generation that embarrassed itself at the 2014 World Cup. He has wasted little time in reaching out for younger players for his squads, including regular call-ups and caps for the New York Red Bulls' Anatole Abang.
Since finding favor with Broos, Abang has fallen out of favor with RBNY - he is currently on loan to Danish second-tier outfit Hobro IK.
It will be a surprise if Abang features at all against Algeria: he is a junior member of the squad, and this will be the team's toughest test of its qualifying campaign. But there will be no better chance this year for a Cameroon men's national team player to make a name for himself - if the Lions take even a point out of Algeria, it will be a significant achievement (even though the historical record between the teams favors Cameroon); any player who contributes notably to an unexpected success for Cameroon will draw attention.
Per the inimitable livesoccertv.com, the match will be screened in the USA.