Cameroon is a regular attendee at the World Cup, having qualified for six of the last eight finals, but the Indomitable Lions have only one trip beyond group phase. That is the same number of knock stage appearances on Japan's record, though the only time the Samurai Blue made the final 16, they co-hosted the tournament. In as much as this type of history matters, there is little to separate Cameroon and Japan.
Cameroon, of course, has Samuel Eto'o, one of the true stars of the world's game. Over the last two years, he has won six major trophies at club level. For his national team, he is the country's all-time leading scorer who, over the last season, has been serving as the team's captain.
But beyond Eto'o and Alexander Song, the Indomitable Lions lack stars, particularly in midfield, where Japan may hold a decisive advantage. Cameroon usually plays a 4-3-3 formation, and against a 4-5-1 from Japan that features a number of skilled players, Cameroon could find itself doing a lot of chasing. Cameroon coach may have to make an adjustment - be it pre-match or during - in order to get enough of the ball to start taking advantage of Eto'o.
That Japan midfielder features captain Makoto Hasebe, who plies his trade for Wolfsburg in Germany. Free-kick maestro Shunsuke Nakamura has just recently moved back to the J-League after spending time in Spain. Junichi Imamoto also went home to get regular time before the World Cup, having last played in Germany and Spain. Yasuhito Endo and Yuki Abe have a combined 139 international matches worth of experience in holding roles. While none of these players are elite talents, the ability to put out five solid, skilled midfielders gives Japan an advantage when facing sides that are thin in the middle.
Over the last year, Japan may have developed a wild card in midfield. Though he did not figure in their qualifying run, Keisuke Honda has worked his way into the team thanks to stellar UEFA Champions League performances with CSKA Moscow. Along with Kawasaki Frontale striker Shinji Okazaki, Honda could provide Japan with a quality in the finish that the team has typically lacked.
And with Cameroon's problems in midfield, Japan may be able to get off to a strong start in South Africa. If Paul Le Guen morphs his 4-3-3 into a 4-5-1, he could stymy the Japanese and rely on Samuel Eto'o creating something. Such are the luxuries of having a player like Eto'o. One small lineup tweak can put your squad back with the advantage.