Jamie Jackson was at Lusail Stadium. His verdict on a bittersweet night for the Indomitable Lions is in. Thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night!
Nick Ames was at
Studio 54 Stadium 974 for Serbia 2-3 Switzerland. Here’s his report on the match that did for Cameroon, despite their Brazil-B-bothering heroics.
So what does that mean for the last 16? This is what it means!
Netherlands v USA
Argentina v Australia
France v Poland
England v Senegal
Japan v Croatia
Brazil v South Korea
Morocco v Spain
Portugal v Switzerland
What an astonishing end to an astonishing group stage! Try to parse the events of the last few minutes if you can. Jerome Ngom Mbekeli with the run and cross of his life, right onto the head of Vincent Aboubakar, who steers a glorious first-time header on the run into the bottom right, Ederson given no chance! Aboubakar is then sent off for taking his shirt off in wild celebration, his second booking in short order, but doesn’t appear to care. Lost in the moment, passions at an all-time high, as he contemplated one of the biggest achievements of his career! And to attempt to put a tin lid on it, Cameroon go out anyway, despite their heroics. Yet another dramatic game that will live in the memory for a good while.
FULL TIME: Cameroon 1-0 Brazil
A heroic, famous victory for Cameroon, who become the first African nation to defeat Brazil at the World Cup! But it won’t be enough to save them, because Switzerland have defeated Serbia 3-2 and secure second spot behind Brazil on goal difference. Wow!
90 min +10: The look on Tite’s face is a picture. A thousand yard stare, as though he’s trying to locate Rio, to see what folk back home are saying.
90 min +9: The ball looped into the Cameroon box. Marquinhos rises high and chests down cleverly for Guimaraes. He’s six yards out and clear … but can only hook over, the ball bouncing back up at an awkward height! Cameroon hearts were in mouths there all right!
90 min +8: Dani Alves crosses deep from the right. Marquinhos, to the left of the six-yard box, steers a header back across the face of goal. Martinelli, six yards out, can’t keep his header down, leaning back and slamming it over the bar. The tension here is palpable! Cameroon are this close to becoming the first African nation to beat five-time champions Brazil at the World Cup!
90 min +6: Marquinhos crosses from the left. Guimaraes rises and steers a header towards the top-left corner. But there’s no power behind the header and Epassy gets up to pluck calmly from the sky.
90 min +4: … and now if Serbia find an equaliser, and ten-man Cameroon hold on, the Africans will be through to the last 16!
RED CARD: Aboubakar (Cameroon)
90 min +3: Aboubakar takes his shirt off and wheels away in wild celebration! The referee has no option but to show him a second yellow, then a red. Aboubakar walks off smiling, in mellow contemplation. He doesn’t give a flying one! He’s just scored one of the goals of his life!
GOAL! Cameroon 1-0 Brazil (Aboubakar 90+2)
Out of nothing … and what a goal! Ngom Mbekeli strides at pace down the right and crosses for Aboubakar, who stoops and steers a sensational header into the bottom right! Ederson rooted to the spot. What a cross that was!
90 min +1: Martinelli turns on the jets and crosses low from the left. Wooh hoicks out for a corner that turns out to be a complete non-event.
90 min: There will be nine added minutes. The 90 that have gone before haven’t exactly flown by.
88 min: Raphinha dribbles infield from the right. He finds Pedro, back to goal on the penalty spot. Pedro swivels and hoicks deep into the stand behind.
87 min: Guimaraes, in a pocket of space inside the Cameroon box to the left, tries to flick Pedro free. Epassy reads the danger and gathers.
85 min: … Cameroon try to break upfield, only for Guimaraes to haul back Ngamaleu. Yellow. That’s Ngamaleu’s last act of the evening, as he’s replaced by Mbekeli.
84 min: Raphinha drops a shoulder to skate past Tolo down the right. He cuts back for Guimaraes, bombing in towards the near post. Guimaraes tries to force home, but his shot is brilliantly blocked by Wooh, the ball deflecting across the face of goal and out for a corner. From which …
82 min: The resulting free kick is a waste of time. “I’m in Lisbon in a sports bar absolutely full of Brazilians,” reports Tim Stappard. “They were very happy Jesus was taken off.”
81 min: Brazil clear the corner and counter. Martinelli races down the right into acres of space. Raphinha is clear in the centre. As Martinelli prepares to make the killer pass infield, Aboubakar executes a perfect rugby tackle. Cynical but spectacular. Into the book he goes!
80 min: Fai crosses from the right. The ball’s deflected out for a corner. Militao half clears. Aboubakar returns it, looking for the top-right corner from long range. The ball’s deflected out for another corner.
79 min: Brazil’s last change. Raphinha comes on for Antony.
78 min: Ntcham is in a progressive mood, and makes himself some space 30 yards out. A couple of strides and then he sends a low shot towards the bottom left. Ederson smothers.
77 min: Ntcham bustles down the middle and nearly one-twos his way into the Brazil box with Ngamaleu. Not quite, but a decent run nonetheless.
75 min: Antony and Guimaraes combine down the right again, but Choupo-Moting isn’t to be passed and the ball deflects out for a goal kick.
73 min: Martinelli cuts back from the left to tee up Guimaraes, who takes a loose touch before slicing a wild effort miles over the bar and wide too.
72 min: Antony, Ribeiro and Guimaraes ping a few triangles down the right and into the Cameroon box. But they over-elaborate and confuse each other, the ball sailing harmlessly out for a goal kick.
70 min: The pace drops a bit, and the game loses its rhythm, perhaps as a result of the recent changes.
68 min: Kunde is replaced by Ntcham.
67 min: Ribeiro dribbles with purpose down the inside-right channel. For a second it looks as though Cameroon are light at the back, but Ebosse comes across to block Ribeiro unceremoniously with a rock-hard and perfectly timed tackle. It had to be, just inside the box.
65 min: Marquinhos and Martinelli try to combine down the inside-left channel but the move breaks down. Both look pained. Brazil are already through, but they want the win, you can be sure of that. And on that subject, here’s Richard Hirst: “Gareth Southgate was excoriated when England ‘only’ drew with the USA. If this game stays as it is, no team will have won all three games, and almost every ‘big’ team will have had a worse result than England. Maybe Southgate knows what he’s doing after all.”
64 min: Both teams make a change. Pedro comes on for Jesus, while Mbeumo is replaced by Toko Ekambi.
63 min: Martinelli drops a shoulder to make space down the left and fizzes a fine mid-height cross into the mixer. Ebosse, ice in the veins, chests down under intense pressure and hoicks clear. That’s some defending in the circumstances!
61 min: Antony has three green shirts around him, but decides to perform his world-famous circle-drag trick instead. He falls over midway through it, but full marks for ambition, and for providing some top-quality Friday night light entertainment on prime-time ITV.
60 min: Epassy is OK to continue. That’s good news for Cameroon, who in this post-Onana environment, only have the 19-year-old Simon Ngapandouetnbu left as backup.
58 min: Guimaraes swings the corner long. Bremer rises at the far post. Epassy does just enough to turn the ball away from danger, only to fall back onto his post. Ooyah, oof, that’s gotta hurt. On comes the physio.
57 min: The next corner leads to Antony looking to curl a shot into the bottom left from the edge of the D. The shot is going wide, but Epassy turns it around the post anyway. Yet another corner coming up!
56 min: Martinelli powers in from the left and looks for the top-right corner. Epassy tips over. The corner’s sent in from the right. Militao swings a leg at the ball from the penalty spot. Epassy mishandles, and the ball squirts towards the bottom left. Epassy spins and turns the ball away from danger just in time.
55 min: Brazil make three changes. Marquinhos for the stricken Telles, plus Bruno Guimaraes and Everton Ribeiro for Fred and Rodrygo.
53 min: An absurd brouhaha in the Cameroon box, as Rodrygo can’t force home a loose ball from the middle of a melee. Epassy scrambles around on his hands and knees, and requires three attempts to gather the ball in his arms. For a second, it looked as though he was going to trundle it into his own net. Penny for the thoughts of a certain Mr Onana.
52 min: Telles can’t continue, and he’ll be replaced by Marquinhos. Brazil are down to ten for the minute.
51 min: So it doesn’t matter what Cameroon do here. Not as things stand. But there’s a long way to go, and Cameroon will continue searching. Aboubakar spins on a sixpence in the Brazil box and sends a low shot whistling past the left-hand post. So close to an opener!
50 min: Ever get the feeling you’d rather be watching the other match? Switzerland have retaken the lead against Serbia. Remo Freuler with that one. It’s not good news for Cameroon.
48 min: Looks like it was just a dead leg for Telles, and though he hobbles off the pitch, he’s quickly looking to come back on again. Anguissa pops over to offer a friendly apology. All good to see.
47 min: Anguissa competes for the corner at the near post. He clatters into Telles, accidentally so, but that’s a free kick and a challenge that the Brazilian left-back will have felt. On comes the trainer.
46 min: Mbeumo is sent scampering down the right, Fai finding him with a lovely raking pass. He crosses. Bremer heads behind for the first corner of the second half.
Cameroon get the second half underway. No changes. “Cameroon are being so, so hard, diving into tackles and the whole lot,” begins Alexandra Ashton. “Unless they change their Brazil-mitigation tactic from ‘hack them down, please’ to something less aggressive, I think a red card is on the horizon. Without those tackles, however, Brazil would have had several good chances to score: a bit of a lose-lose, in my opinion.”
Half-time entertainment. We’ve already had one nail-biting group finale today. Jonathan Liew sifts through the alpha-keratin-infused detritus.
HALF TIME: Cameroon 0-0 Brazil
The whistle blows on a half that will give Cameroon succour, and hope of survival. Had that Mbeumo effort gone in, Cameroon would have been sitting second as things stand … because Switzerland have made it 2-2 in their game with Serbia in Stadium 974, Breel Embolo with the latest goal there. Nothing – other than Brazil’s qualification – has been decided in Group G quite yet!
45 min +3: Nearly two and a half games into this World Cup, Brazil finally face an attempt on goal! Ngamaleu reaches the byline down the left. He loops a cross towards Mbeumo at the far post. Mbeumo heads down. The ball rears up and sails towards the top right. Ederson arches his back and saves spectacularly.
45 min +2: The resulting corner. Antony pulls back for Rodrygo, who hits a first-time shot wide right from the edge of the box.
45 min +1: Martinelli cuts in from the left and shoots from the edge of the D. His rising shot is palmed over by Epassy. Only just, mind, the keeper looking nervously behind him as the ball squirts through his hands and loops inches over the bar.
45 min: Kunde knocks the ball long down the left, with a view to taking on a couple of blue shirts in a footrace. He starts sprinting, then thinks twice and stops, deciding not to bother.
43 min: Rodrygo drops a little bit deeper for a dribble through the centre circle. He glides to the right then nearly releases Antony down the middle but his pass is too heavy and clanks though to Epassy.
41 min: Aboubakar wedges into the Brazil box from the right. Mbeumo can’t get on the end of it, the ball pings softly off Bremer’s head, and Ederson claims without too much fuss.
39 min: Fai is down receiving treatment, having hurt himself in fruitless pursuit of an in-flight Martinelli.
37 min: Dušan Vlahović has just put Serbia 2-1 up against Cameroon. A lovely swivel and threaded diagonal shot into the bottom right. That’s shaken up Group G all right!
36 min: Aboubakar has a chance to release Mbeumo into acres down the right, but doesn’t spot the pass before he’s surrounded by blue shirts. Mbeumo would have been clean through.
35 min: One save from Martinelli apart, Epassy has had naff all to do in the Cameroon goal.
34 min: Dani Alves curls the free kick over the wall but can’t get it back down towards the top-left corner. The ball sails harmlessly over the bar.
32 min: Rodrygo dribbles at full pelt down the inside-left channel. Fai feels he has little option but to clip his ankle, and goes into the book. If Cameroon make it through, he’ll not be playing in the last-16 tie.
30 min: Rodrygo bashes the free kick witlessly into the Cameroon wall. Fabinho makes a half-arsed claim for a handball and a penalty, but he surely can’t believe it.
29 min: Serbia have equalised against Switzerland, Aleksandar Mitrović firing home a sensational header. It’s 1-1 in Stadium 974, and now Group G looks like this:
28 min: Rodrygo hip-shakes in from the right and reaches the edge of the Cameroon D. He’s clipped cynically by Kunde, who goes into the book. A free kick in a central position, 25 yards out.
27 min: … and when I typed that, I meant a Brazilian goal. But now Ngamaleu dribbles in adroitly from the left flank and prepares to shoot. Fabinho blocks before he can get a meaningful effort away.
25 min: Brazil are beginning to push Cameroon back. Martinelli skedaddles past Fai on the left but can’t tee up a team-mate. Antony swings one in from the right to earn a corner that’s taken short and wasted. An opening goal looks increasingly imminent.
23 min: In the other game in Group G, Xherdan Shaqiri has powercubed Switzerland into the lead against Serbia. As things stand, the group will finish like this:
22 min: Telles crosses from the left. Jesus cushions a header down for Fred, who attempts to hook spectacularly goalwards. His shot is deflected out for a corner. Rodrygo takes, and at the near post, Aboubakar launches the ball towards the border with Saudi Arabia. Some effort behind that clearance!
20 min: Choupo-Moting rolls a pass down the left for the overlapping Tolo, who looks much more comfortable in attack. He whips viciously into the Brazil box. Ederson is concerned enough to clear with a spectacular diving punch.
19 min: Ederson ventures outside his box and wanders around awhile with the ball at his feet. Rigobert Song would not approve.
17 min: Antony, who looks in the mood to perform a few tricks and flicks tonight, wins a corner off Tolo down the right. Tolo, already on a booking, wears the look of a flustered man. Nothing comes of the set piece.
16 min: Martinelli, from inside his own half, tears off down the left wing at warp speed, leaving a few green shirts floundering in his wake. Unfortunately for Brazil, his cross isn’t up to much, and neither Jesus nor Antony can resurrect the attack at the far stick.
14 min: Fred crosses from a deep position on the right. Martinelli rises by the left-hand corner of the six-yard box, and tries to guide a header into the top right. It’s a decent effort, but Epassy tips over the bar and nothing comes of the resulting corner.
13 min: There’s not much going on, so the punters in the stadium entertain themselves with a Mexican wave.
11 min: Epassy is nearly hunted down by Martinelli when the ball’s at his feet. He labours over his clearance but eventually gets rid. A heart-in-mouth moment for coach Rigobert Song, who sent home first choice André Onana, a much more confident ball player, last week.
9 min: Cameroon are giving as good as they’re getting right now. Brazil’s second string haven’t quite got used to each other yet.
7 min: Now Militao goes into the book for a pretty clumsy high-kick on Ngamaleu. The referee wags his finger and has the look of a man who means business.
6 min: Antony spins Tolo with an outrageous feint and makes off down the right flank. Tolo, no doubt feeling affronted, hacks Antony down from behind and goes into the book. It might be a long night for the Cameroon left-back.
4 min: Other than that, a quiet start as both teams allow their defence to get an early feel of the ball.
2 min: Telles passes the ball out of play. Then Anguissa ships possession far too easily, before Brazil collectively run down a cul-de-sac. All a bit scrappy during the early exchanges. Then suddenly a burst of quality from Brazil, as Antony romps down the right and slips a ball infield in the hope of finding Fred. Not quite. Cameroon clear their lines.
Brazil get the ball rolling. They stroke it around the back in the non-urgent style.
The teams are out! Cameroon are in their green, red and gold, while the other lot are giving off strong Cowdenbeath vibes tonight: it’s blue Brazil! “I was curious where the Brazil-Cameroon game in the 1994 World Cup was played, and it turned out to be Stanford Stadium near San Francisco,” begins Matt Burtz. “Cameroon didn’t have much luck playing there, as they lost 6-1 to Russia four days later. The stadium’s capacity has since been reduced by about 30,000. Being born in 1981 this was the first World Cup I was aware of (being held here in the US certainly helped; I honestly don’t know if the US’s games in 1990 were televised) and it’s hard to believe that it was almost thirty years ago now.” Time flies all right, and the game will begin in a couple of those all-too-fleeting moments.
PENNANT WATCH. It’s a slightly farcical PENNANT WATCH today, because we don’t have the rights to the photos that have been taken of them. But nothing can stop me. The MBM has previously talked of the leonine majesty of Brazil’s yellow-maned effort, but I can report that Cameroon’s official trinket is also an absolute cracker, dark-green with lush golden tassels. Not only that, they’ll be presenting a small wooden shield bearing the federation crest in a blue velvet-lined box. That’d look lovely displayed on the mantlepiece, next to a banker’s table lamp and crystal decanter containing a little something from Speyside. Ten out of ten for Brazil, but Cameroon’s pennant-o-meter™ result goes all the way up to 11.
A couple of stats that sum up the size and scale of Cameroon’s task tonight. They need to win, and while they might be playing Brazil’s second string, that’s one heck of a B-team. Brazil and Cameroon have met at the World Cup on two previous occasions, and the Seleção have won both games: 3-0 at USA 94, 4-1 at home in 2014. Brazil have played African sides five other times at World Cups, and they’ve won all of those as well: seven games in total, seven wins, 20 goals scored, just two conceded. Godspeed Indomitable Lions.
Both teams have been giving it plenty as they make their way to the ground. The ITV network hasn’t sounded this good since the days of The Roxy.
Much as expected, Tite has made sweeping changes to the Brazil starting XI. He’s made nine of them, with only defender Eder Militao and midfielder Fred keeping their places from the Switzerland game. Dani Alves, at 39, becomes Brazil’s oldest player at a World Cup finals. The injured Neymar will be watching from the stands.
Cameroon have made four changes in the wake of the 3-3 draw against Serbia. Nicolas Nkoulou, Jean-Charles Castelletto, Martin Hongla and Karl Toko Ekambi make way for Christopher Wooh, Enzo Ebosse, Nicolas Ngamaleu and Vincent Aboubakar.
Cameroon: Epassy, Fai, Wooh, Ebosse, Tolo, Zambo Anguissa, Kunde, Mbeumo, Choupo-Moting, Ngamaleu, Aboubakar.
Subs: Ngapandouetnbu, Mbekeli, Ondoua, Nkoudou, Nsame, Bassogog, Toko Ekambi, Gouet, Mbaizo, Ntcham, Marou.
Brazil: Ederson, Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Bremer, Alex Telles, Fabinho, Fred, Antony, Rodrygo, Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus.
Subs: Alisson, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison, Raphinha, Weverton, Bruno Guimaraes, Vinicius Junior, Everton Ribeiro, Pedro.
Referee: Ismail Elfath (USA).
Brazil have already qualified for the knockouts, though there is some jeopardy for them tonight. If they lose against Cameroon, they could be denied top spot in Group G should Switzerland beat Serbia in the other game. In that scenario, top spot would be decided by goal difference.
Cameroon meanwhile need a win to progress, and only then if Switzerland fail to beat Serbia in the other game. A draw between Serbia and Switzerland would leave second place decided by goal difference between Cameroon and the Swiss; a Serbia win would leave second place decided by goal difference between Cameroon and the Serbs.
It could potentially get more complicated, should goal difference not decide everything. But let’s not go down the route of goals scored, disciplinary points, or the drawing of lots. Not yet. Not while we don’t have to. Kick off is at 7pm GMT, 10pm at the Iconic Stadium in Lusail. انه يحدث! It’s on!