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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Excellent second half sees Cameroon rally for shootout draw with Serbia

It looked like Cameroon were destined for early elimination after falling behind against Serbia on Monday in Group G action at the 2022 FIFA World Cup but the Indomitable Lions rallied from two goals down for a surprise 3-3 draw. Vincent Aboubakar and Eric Choupo-Moting each scored in the second half to bring Cameroon back from a 3-1 deficit and keep their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage alive. Cameroonian supporters can still dream but plenty of work remains ahead for the Indomitable Lions who will need a win against Brazil on Friday to qualify for the Round of 16.

Defense was optional throughout an entertaining thriller that may be the most exciting match so far in Qatar. Cameroon survived a couple of close calls from Serbian star striker Aleksandar Mitrović in the opening minutes as the Fulham marksman hit the post in the opening five minutes before being gifted a golden opportunity that he smashed wide of the goal. After Serbia’s early dominance the first twist in the match arrived just before the half hour mark when a Pierre Kunde corner kick was flicked on at the near post by Nicolas Nkoulou to his wide open center back partner Jean-Charles Castelletto for an easy tap in at the far post.

Cameroon failed to hold on until halftime with Serbia storming back in first half stoppage time. A deep free kick service from Serbia captain Dušan Tadić found center back Strahinja Pavlović for an accurate header past Cameroon goalkeeper Devis Epassy to level the match. Soon after an exchange of passes at the edge of the area between Sergej Milinković-Savić and Andrija Živković set up Milinković-Savić for a low shot past Epassy and Serbia were up 2-1 by the halftime whistle.

When Mitrović finally got his goal on a 53rd minute tap in following an excellent Serbian team buildup it seemed like Cameroon had no chance of coming back but the introduction of captain Aboubakar from manager Rigobert Song turned the match on its head. A smart run from Aboubakar saw the veteran run onto a long ball from Castelletto and lift a clever finish over Serbian goalkeeper Vanja Milinković-Savić, a goal that was initially called offside but given following a Video Assistant Referee review.

Three minutes later Aboubakar helped complete a stunning comeback for the Indomitable Lions. The Al Nassr striker got behind the Serbian defense on a pass from the back yet again with another perfectly timed run and put a low cross into the path of Choupo-Moting for an easy finish past Milinković-Savić. A flustered Serbian team controlled the remainder of the match but could not regain their lead and will face a difficult challenge against Switzerland on Friday with a win now essential to their knockout stage chances.