Story: Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
CAMEROUN renewed hopes for a berth in the quarter final stage when they recovered from last Tuesday’s defeat to Egypt to spank Zambia 5-1 in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations Group C match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi last Saturday.
Cameroun Manager Otto Pfister reshuffled his team, starting with five quality players who had sat on the bench in the match against Egypt and the Indomitable Lions, who needed victory badly, turned the Zambia goal area into a disaster zone.
Augustine Binya Gilles, Modeste Mbami, Achille Amana, Alexandre Song and Joseph Desire Job were played ahead of Jean Makoun, Landry Nguemo, Joel Epalle, Mahamadou Iddrissou and Claude Stephane Mbia and that worked to perfection for the Lions as they roared from the middle to attack.
It was an absolute nightmare for the Zambians, but they had themselves to blame for the huge score line as three defensive lapses presented the hungry Lions with goals that were preventable. Their trainer, Patrick Phiri, was disappointed in his team after the match, saying, “We won the match for Cameroun.”
Arsenal’s Alexandre Song and his midfield colleagues Mbami and Amana of French clubs Toulouse and Marseilles, respectively, provided the missing link in that department and as they took over the action to wear the Chipolopolo defence down, the best tactic for the Zambians was to mass up in defence to soak the pressure and employ the counter.
It wasn’t all rosy for Cameroun. There were some anxious moments as the Zambians ran round the Lions defence, but attempts by skipper Christopher Katongo and Jacob Mulenga to strike at target were persistently fruitless.
In the 74th minute, for instance, substitute Felix Mumba Sunzu’s glancing header went off the woodwork, while Mulenga followed up a minute later with a full blast of the ball but his shot went over the bar, when he had keeper Carlos Idris Kameni at his mercy.
Samuel Eto’o, who equalled Ivorian Laurent Pokou’s all-time best scorer record of 14 goals, scored his third goal in the tournament from the penalty spot and celebrated in style, running to hold the corner flag, wriggling his waist and saluting the cheering spectators.
Cameroun opened the scores in the 27th minute when Geremi, who was adventurous on the right of attack, struck a free kick close to the area to the far left corner of Michael Poto’s post.
With the floodgates opened, Geremi and Emana tried to cut through to the by-lines and get their crosses for Eto’o and Job, while the Chipolopolo fought back, knocking the ball around the middle and looking for a path past the Camerounian back four of Bikey, Rigobert Song, Binya and Atouba.
Under no pressure, Zambia’s Billy Mwanza failed to close the ball down in the 31st minute and the veteran Job, who was adjudged the MTN Best Player of the match, pounced on the opportunity with a gentle tap into the net for the second goal.
Clearly, for coach Phiri, all was not well and he pulled out Kennedy Nketani for Himonde Hichani in the 37th minute to strengthen the defence but it was Cameroun who scored again after 43 minutes when another defensive lapse saw Emana arriving early to round off keeper Poto before coolly directing the ball into the yawning net.
Tempers flared in the 57th minute and Zambia’s Mulenga and Cameroun’s Rigobert Song nearly went into fisticuffs following a stormy action near the Cameroun area and Japanese referee Yuichi Nichimura verbally warned them.
Skipper Song, who was at his defensive best, clearing his lines with confidence, did a brilliant run to sweep the ball off the foot of Katongo, who had entered firing range in the 61st minute.
As both sides effected substitutions, the action swung from one end to another, with Cameroun a shade ahead in attacking play. It paid off after 64 minutes when they increased the tally through Eto’o from the spot.
With nine minutes to go, Job scored his personal second and the fifth for Cameroun, exploiting a misunderstanding in the Zambian area to plant the ball in the net.
The Chipolopolo were completely deflated but they mustered some courage and redeemed one of the goals with a minute to go through Musonda who connected a left wing cross past Kameni.