By his own admission, Stephane Mbia is a lucky man. At the age of 22 he has already represented his country, played in a CAF Africa Cup of Nations final and counts Samuel Eto'o among his friends.

The Rennes midfielder, who stands at 1.86m tall, was a commanding figure for the Indomitable Lions in their match against Korea Republic on Thursday evening and is thoroughly enjoying the Olympic experience.

"Even though people tell me I'm young, new experiences are important for me," he told at Cameroon's team hotel in Qinhuangdao. "A footballer's career is only short, so I consider myself to be extremely fortunate.

"Every footballer I know wants to play at the Olympic Games - it's a huge honour. It's a special part of your career. It's important for players and it's important to me. I've come here to win this competition and to support my team-mates. I grew up with this team and I want to support my friends. I've got a lot of experience and it's great to use it."

What a feeling
Mbia might have counted himself a little bit unlucky not to have got his name on the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw with the Taeguk Warriors. He went close with two free-kicks, and admitted that he was relieved when he saw celebrated Georges Mandjeck's close range effort hit the back of the net.

I'm happy and everyone in the team is happy because this is a big occasion.
Cameroon's imposing midfielder Stephane Mbia on playing at the Olympics.

"It's great when you play these type of games," he said. "It's my first time at the Olympics. The atmosphere was tremendous. Of course, we'd have liked to have beaten Korea Republic, but we were happy to score such a late equaliser.

"I remember when Cameroon won the Olympic Games in 2000 and I want to do the same."

Looking forward
Mbia really hit the headlines when he scored his first Ligue 1 goal for Rennes in November 2006 against Lyon, which turned out to be the matchwinner. Arguably his highest profile game, however, came during the quarter-finals of Ghana 2008 when his brace against Tunisia helped to propel his team to victory.

Honest on the pitch, as he is off it, he has attracted the attentions of a number of big clubs, including Premier League giants Everton, who will be playing in the UEFA Cup next season.

But just what type of a player is he?

"I don't see myself as a taller Makelele, even though I think he's a great player," he said. "I see myself more as an Pirlo-type player. Yes, I play in front of the back four, but I like to be a playmaker, to supply the midfielders and strikers who go forward, rather than being defensive-minded."

U-17 memories
It was at this point in the conversation when the blond hair of Serge Ngal walked past shouting ‘fifteen, fifteen' - in reference to the squad number he is wearing during this Men' Olympic Football Tournament.

He laughed at his team-mates antics. Ndal, Arsenal's Alexandre Song and Mbia were team-mates at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Finland 2003, where one game in particular stands out in his memory.

"I still dream about the game when I scored in injury time against Portugal to level the match," he recalled. "It finished 5-5 and the crowd went wild! It was a great experience for me. But now I want to win the real World Cup with my country - after I win the gold medal here, of course!"