Cameroon’s highlight of the evening appeared to arrive before the actual game when high spirits had them sashaying down the corridor to the dressing room in vocal form. From here their night nosedived until the 92nd minute when a beauty of a header from Vincent Aboubakar made history as the Indomitable Lions claimed a first win over Brazil.
It was followed by the captain ripping off his shirt in jubilation and being sent off for a second yellow card for the offence and, with Switzerland taking three points in their showdown with Serbia, Rigobert Song’s side were knocked out.
A regretful coach said: “My players should be congratulated. They have shown that they should have done better in the two games before this. We gradually improved and it’s a real shame that we are going home now. I trust in my players and they delivered.”
This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.
Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.
Earlier in the tournament Song had the distraction of a fallout with André Onana which presaged him sending his No 1 goalkeeper home. “There were some problems at the start which were resolved very quickly. The team always takes priority over the individual. We play elite football we need discipline and that is where we have let ourselves down in the past,” he said.
Brazil, then, end as Group G victors – on goal difference only - and face South Korea next but this was a first ever reverse to any nation from the same continent as Cameroon. Tite said: “It will be before me – we lost – the first Brazilian coach to lose to an African team, we will have to suffer 24 hours and then we have to start preparing. We feel the loss, and we must feel the loss when we lose. We have to feel it – it is part of the context.
“Who lost? All of us. Our preparation is joint, our wins are joint, our losses are joint. This competition gives us something to think about – it’s food for thought. There’s short time to recover between matches.”
After Brazil posted a video of Neymar training, he offered an injury update. “Regarding Neymar and Alex Sandro– we have time on our behalf, we have possibilities and let’s wait to see. They’re not yet training with a ball, so we need to observe them there and see how they do.
“Danilo has been evolving positively – he did intense work with the ball and has adapted functionally positively and he should be able to train normally with the players.
While only Fred and Éder Militão were retained from victory over Switzerland, the headline fresh name was Dani Alves, who at 39 added winning cap No 125 (drawing level with Roberto Carlos as Brazil’s second highest appearance maker) and becoming his nation’s oldest World Cup captain to the CV of one of the great careers.
A booking for Pierre Kunde for clipping Rodrygo, whose after-burners zipped along a diagonal, was Cameroon’s issue in a nutshell: hurtling at them were pace, trickery, invention, and directness. And so it was that a wheezing Collins Fai was the next to see Ismail Elfath’s yellow card waved at him, the referee chuckling mildly at the right-back’s protestations. The foul, once more, was on Rodrygo, Alves’s free-kick poor, but Brazil’s one-way traffic was veering into roadblock territory as Cameroon were trapped at every turn.
Missing from all this ball-hogging act was a Brazil goal. Possession was at 68.4% for them but Tite’s close-to-second string lacked, thus far, cool execution near the posts. Cameroon would love to have this problem. As the interval beckoned an Aboubakar dink into the area that Ederson cleaned up was being written up as one of the very few moments they were allowed close to the Brazil No 1. But, then, in virtually the last play of the half they gave Brazil a fright.
The ball was chipped in from the left from Moumi Ngamaleu and Bryan Mbeumo’s header went into the turf first and skidded up enough for Ederson to have to fly right to prevent the goal.
Before, Gabriel Martinelli had skipped along the Cameroon area from the left and blazed at Devis Epassy’s goal, the keeper, impressively, saving at a high angle but when the sides reassembled after the break Cameroon still had the chance of the win required to have any chance of last-16 football.
The claiming of a corner by Mbuemo off Bremer was the best way to commence what they hoped would not be their last 45 minutes of Qatar 2022. No dividend was yielded from the kick, though.
Brazil had become complacent, Fred’s mis-control in the centre circle indicative and yet on view was one team fine-tuning their reserves for the battles ahead and the other hoping to dodge oblivion via the miracle of a win and Switzerland giving up their lead. The latter did not happen but the former did. It was not enough for Cameroon but they now have a victory to rank alongside their victory over Argentina at the 1990 edition of the championships.
Song offered an optimistic note. “This is only the beginning,” he said.