Cameroon fight back to draw World Cup thriller with Serbia
What you need to know:
- Vincent Aboubakar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting then struck as Cameroon and Serbia both picked up their first point in Group G ahead of the later game between Brazil and Switzerland.
When Cameron coach Rogibert Song appeared for his first press conference here in Doha last week he was at pains to explain who would wear the captain’s armband between Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar.
“You guys are creating a problem where there is none,” he retorted to journalist.
But seemingly there is a problem in the squad, an indication of that came early yesterday morning when news filtered into the Main Press Centre here in Doha that a player had been dropped from the Cameroon line-up.
Cameroonian journalist indicated that it was their regular goalkeeper Inter Milan's Andre Onana.
The team list, released an hour before the game confirmed that indeed Onana was not in the starting line-up. In fact, he was indicated as absent from the team with Saudi Arabia-based Devis Passy starting in his stead.
Were the problems of old returning to haunt the Indomitable Lions again? Remember their protest over allowances in 2014?
Cameroon, with no point, started the crucial Group G match against Serbia, also without a point, at Al Janoub Stadium yesterday on the back foot, soaking plenty of Serbian pressure.
Fulham hitman Aleksandar Mitrovic twice had the chance to give Serbia the lead, rattling the upright after some dexterous individual play and then contriving to shoot wide with a yawning goal in front of him.
Then against the run of play the Indomitable Lions scored, Jean-Charles Castelletto of Nantes stealing at the far post to stab in a corner on 29 minutes to silence the vocal Serbia support in the stadium.
Serbia turned the game in a two minute period of time added on, Strahinja Pavlovic heading in the equalizers before Sergej Milinkovic-Savic gave them the lead moments before the end of the first half.
When Serbia scored their third goal, beautifully worked out, and finished with aplomb by Mitrovic it all looked over for Cameroon who were carrying an eight-match losing streak at the World Cup.
But something happened to the Cameroonian outfit, for long periods a disjointed lot, they started looking like a team that was playing for each other.
Saudi Arabia-based Aboubakar, coming in as a substitute, pulled one back with a nonchalant lob after beating the Serbian off side trap, and the goal being certified by VAR.
He turned provided minutes later racing clear to feed the supporting Moting who was not going to miss at that distance and in the form he is in.
The indomitable Lions were now looking like a team that could win the match.
And they tried but were let down by the final ball.
The gutsy performance drew praise from Song.
"We showed a fighting spirit to come from 3-1 down. We made mistakes in the first match and we learnt. We can get better," he said.
As group favourites Brazil loom in the Lion's final preliminary stage match.
On the mysterious absence of Onana, the Lions coach would only offer: "He is an important player in the team and I am the coach and I know what I have to do. We need to show respect and discipline. The team is more important than an individual."
The indomitable Lions have at least ended an inglorious eight-match losing streak but getting out of the group, for the first time since their famous 1990 exploits, may be beyond them.
Tournament favourites Brazil loom on Friday. Cameroon must improve. Vastly.
Meanwhile, after nine straight days of action, the tournament enters the final matches of the group stage where tension will rise several notches.
Both matches of every group will be played simultaneously.
Remarkably, after the second round of matches, excluding those of Group “H” that were to concluded last night, only France, with two straight wins, had guaranteed themselves a place in the round of 16 with a game to spare.
In Group “A”, any of the the first three teams can secure a knock-out stage.
Senegal, on three points, face Ecuador, who have four points, at the Khalifa International Stadium while leaders Netherlands (also on four points) play already eliminated Qatar at Al Bayt Stadium from 6pm.