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Cameroon’s chaotic World Cup campaign comes to glorious conclusion

3:52 AM IST 03/12/22
Vincent Aboubakar of Cameroon, 2022
The Indomitable Lions only have themselves to blame for their premature World Cup elimination

In this World Cup, it feels as though Cameroon have both pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, and defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Indomitable Lions’ campaign came to an end on Friday as they defeated Brazil to end the opening round with an admirable four points, but it’s not enough to take them through to the knockouts.

Vincent Aboubakar’s winning goal encapsulated many of the chaotic elements of their campaign.

The striker was set up by a local player, substitute Jerome Ngom, who plays for APEJES de Mfou and hadn’t even been used by Rigobert Song ahead of a pre-tournament warm-up game on the eve of the tournament.

He was a shock inclusion in the squad, and despite not being used throughout the competition to date, contributed the genuinely outstanding moment of quality to cut through the Brazil defence with a sensational cross for Aboubakar to cushion the header home.

The striker himself then promptly celebrated his winner by taking off his shirt, seemingly gleefully receiving a second yellow card—he’d earlier been booked for clattering into Gabriel Martinelli—strolling off with a smile despite Cameroon’s pending elimination.

Aboubakar himself, comfortably the Lions’ chief goal threat, had been dropped for the opener against Switzerland, but his performance against Serbia breathed life into the Lions’ campaign.

The main Cameroonian storyline during the World Cup was the alleged fallout between Song and Andre Onana, one of the squad’s outstanding player, who departed after reportedly disagreeing with the head coach’s playing style.

It’s a strange hill to die on, if indeed, that is the reason why Onana departed the camp.

The decision to axe Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui, the team’s outstanding centre-back, was also a baffling decision by Samuel Eto’o and Song.

Their subsequent centre-back pairing, Jean-Charles Castelletto and Nicholas Nkoulou conceded four across the next two matches, and with both players injured, the duo of Enzo Ebosse and Christopher Wooh stepped into the breach against Brazil.

They contributed to Cameroon’s best defensive showing, as while stand-in keeper Devis Epassy was busy, he kept the first clean sheet of the Lions campaign as almighty Brazil were neutralised.

Cameroon certainly found a way for their negatives to become positives—who could have guessed that a defensive triangle of Epassy, Wooh, Ebosse would have performed so impressively against Brazil no less?—but one senses that a more organised approach and consistent selection policy might have given them a better chance of avoiding defeat against the Swiss and being more resolute against the Serbians.

It’s been chaotic, it’s been memorable, it’s included a famous victory over the Brazilians, but—as is often the case with Cameroon—heartbreak and delight tend to follow each other in quick succession.