Monday, April 15, 2024
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Cameroon holds Serbia in 3-3 thriller


Indomitable Lions expel Onana

Cameroon, yesterday, rose from the ashes of their opening day defeat by Switzerland to battle Serbia to a 3-3 draw Al Janoub Stadium. It was a draw that kept fans at the Al Janoub Stadium breathless and also kept Cameroon’s hopes of making the last 16 of the World Cup alive.

Cameroon’s day started on a bad note with the news of the expulsion of number one goalkeeper, Andre Onana, over disciplinary issues.

Rigobert Song’s team looked almost dead and buried after goals from Strahinja Pavlovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Serbia a 3-1 lead early in the second half.

But substitute Vincent Aboubakar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting snatched a draw with two quick-fire strikes just after the hour mark to leave both Cameroun and Serbia on a single point, two behind group leaders Brazil and Switzerland.

Had they lost, Cameroun would have been relying on the Swiss beating Brazil in order to not be eliminated with a game to spare, but instead the west Africans still have a chance of getting out of the group stage for the first time since 1990.

Cameroon has a tough task ahead as they play Brazil in their final match, which, according to reports, they will play without a first-choice goalkeeper, Onana, who was dropped from the matchday squad just hours before kick-off following an unspecified disciplinary issue.

Mitrovic was almost invisible in Serbia’s defeat to Brazil but here he was involved from kick-off, the Fulham forward unlucky not to give Serbia the lead in the 11th minute when he crashed a shot off the post from a tight angle following a neat exchange of passes with Dusan Tadic.

But Mitrovic only had himself to blame for not opening the scoring six minutes later, shanking an awful first-time finish wide when, after a mix up in the Cameroun defence, the ball dropped at his feet with only Onana’s replacement, Devis Epassy, to beat.

And Castelletto punished the Serbs for Mitrovic’s miss in the 29th minute with the simplest of finishes after ghosting in at the back post to meet Nicolas Nkoulou’s flick-on at a corner.

Pierre Kunde then passed up a golden opportunity to double Cameroun’s lead in the 43rd minute when he first shot straight at goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic and then smashed the rebound wide.

It was Cameroun’s turn to be undone at a set-piece as the half crept into first-half stoppage time when Pavlovic brilliantly headed home Tadic’s floated free-kick.

The Serbs’ tails were up and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic flipped the match on its head two minutes later with a superb left-footed finish after Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa sloppily gave the ball away just outside his own penalty area.

Mitrovic finally had the goal his strong display deserved seven minutes after the break, tapping in Andrija Zivkovic’s pass unopposed at the end of a beautiful move guided by Milinkovic-Savic and Tadic.

The match looked over but from nowhere Cameroun sprung back into life thanks to Aboubakar’s odd goal.

The Al Nassr forward raced through onto Castelletto’s launched pass over the top and scooped an improbable finish over the Serbia ‘keeper, beaming with delight after his goal was awarded following a VAR check.

Aboubakar’s pace caused Serbia all kinds of problems and he laid on Choupo-Moting’s leveller, bursting down the right and laying on a simple finish for the Bayern Munich forward which sparked wild celebrations on the pitch and in the stands.

Neither side could find a winner in an end-to-end finish to the game and their bids to make the knockouts will go down to the final game.

Speaking after the game, Cameroun manager, Song, confirmed that Onana has left their 2022 World Cup squad due to ‘disciplinary reasons.’

The 26-year-old is alleged to have been involved in a heated exchange with Song over his style of play during a training session on Saturday.

Song is said to have criticised Onana for taking too many risks with his feet near his own goal and he wanted the Inter Milan shot-stopper to play more direct.

Onana, who played the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat to Switzerland last Thursday, allegedly refused to change his style of play and he has since been removed from Cameroun’s World Cup squad in Qatar.

Song added: “He is a very important player but we are at the World Cup and my role is to put the team first ahead of an individual.

“He is one of the best keepers in Europe. This is not about his performances, but you have to preserve the squad.

“Maybe it was the trigger we needed for this performance (against Serbia). It was a big risk that I took, but I’m the dad of these kids so when I have to take risks and make decisions, I do that and I stand by what I do.

“At the moment, I’ve asked Onana to wait and we will see if he is going to stay with us. It’s up to him.”