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World Cup

Cameroon rediscover indomitable spirit, but Eto’o still looks like a fool

8:33 PM IST 28/11/22
Eto'o, Richarlison, Cameroon
The Indomitable Lions battled back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Serbia, but controversies continue to undermine their expectations

Cameroon rediscovered their indomitable spirit on Monday to battle back from 3-1 down to hold Serbia 3-3 in a World Cup thriller to keep alive—just—their prospects of advancing to the knockout stages.

The Central Africans were up against it after losing their opener 1-0 against Switzerland, and defensive confusion during the first half left Serbia with a 2-1 advantage at half time.

It should have been far bleaker for the Lions, and the European side duly added to their advantage soon after the break to leave the Central Africans staring into the abyss.

This was where the startling comeback began, with deposed skipper Vincent Aboubakar introduced from the bench to score one delightful lobbed effort before setting up Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting for the equaliser.

It was stunning display by the veteran super sub—whose performance off the bench harked back to the legendary Roger Milla, who played the role of super sub during the Lions iconic World Cup campaign in 1990 when they reached the quarter-finals.

Another quality of great Cameroon sides past was rediscovered as well, as the Lions demonstrated that indomitable spirit to fight back against the odds, never to relinquish in desperate situations, and to pursue seemingly lost causes.

They were outplayed, out-thought, out-gunned by Serbia, but although a Lions collapse appeared on the cards, they ultimately rescued a point.

This is the spirit that underpinned the great team of the 1980s, the side that won back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 and 20002, as we as the Olympic gold medal in 2000.

But we haven’t seen it at recent Worlds Cups; had Cameroon lost this one, they would have equalled Mexico’s miserable record for having lost a consecutive nine games at the tournament.

Never before have they scored three in a World Cup game, and it dramatically improves their goals-to-games ratio which, before the match, stood at 18 goals in 24 matches, with only three in their previous eight games at the tournament.

We’ve seen this spirit returning recently; against Burkina Faso in the Afcon third-placed playoff, against Algeria in the World Cup qualifying playoff, but the Lions will need it by the gallons if they’re to dispatch Brazil and progress.

Despite the axing of Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui, despite the dismissal of Andre Onana ahead of the fixture, despite the difficult first half, Cameroon gave us one of the games of the tournament and breathed life into their own campaign.

However, despite their heroics on Monday, the Lions are still rank outsiders to progress considering they have just one point from two games and now face Brazil in their final group game.

The Lions haven’t grossly underperformed, but their campaign has made a mockery of Samuel Eto’o’s pre-tournament prediction that they would reach the final.

The forecast appeared far-fetched at the time, and a second-half rally against Serbia cannot shake the perception that Eto’o was grossly underestimating his charges…and undoubtedly putting undue pressure on Cameroon as they embarked on their campaign in Qatar.

Can Eto’o and the Lions—newly indomitable—make critics eat their words against Brazil on Friday?