LUSAIL, Qatar — Cameroon‘s Vincent Aboubakar scored a late winner to hand them a memorable 1-0 win over Brazil on Friday, but it was not enough to see Rigobert Song’s side through to the knockout stages of Qatar 2022.
Brazil dominated much of the match, but Aboubakar’s 90th-minute winner ensured Cameroon’s World Cup campaign finished on a winning note. He celebrated by taking his shirt off, and was subsequently sent off by referee Ismail Elfath, who handed the striker a second yellow card for his celebration following another booking earlier in the match.
With qualification already secured, Brazil manager Tite made nine changes to his side ahead of the match and handed Dani Alves the captaincy, and while they head through as winners of Group G, this was a shock result and not the preparation they wanted ahead of their match round-of-16 matchup against South Korea on Monday.
1. Cameroon give this World Cup another shock
Tite’s much-changed Brazil side gave the fresh starters a wonderful opportunity to give the manager a selection headache ahead of the round of 16. A couple took it, others let it pass them by.
Regardless of the changes, the Brazil’s expectations remain the same: they expected and demanded a win. In a World Cup of shocks, this was another to add to the list.
The swathes of changes was Tite reinforcing the faith he has in the whole squad to get the job done here in Qatar. Only third-choice keeper Weverson is yet to get any minutes. But the selection gamble, in the short term at least, didn’t pay off.
Of those brought in, it was the Arsenal man Gabriel Martinelli who was Brazil’s best player on the field as his trickery caused Cameroon a headache. Twice he managed to slip past his marker to get shots on goal, and it was only the astute positioning of goalkeeper Devis Epassy that kept them out.
There were those who failed to make the most of their opportunity, though. Gabriel Jesus never really managed to fashion a chance — replaced after 54 minutes by Everton Ribeiro — but did well in link-up play. On the opposite flank to Martinelli, Antony showed flashes of brilliance in the opening stages, but was eventually marked out of the game by the Seattle Sounders‘ Tolo Nouhou. Rodrygo was one of the more promising players off the bench in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Switzerland, but was handed some rough justice by the Cameroon defence and didn’t manage to trouble the goal.
Their profligacy ended up costing them, while it was a defensive lapse that allowed Aboubaker to head home unmarked late on with Bremer missing his man. That will give Tite cause for concern with South Korea lying in wait, and the injured personnel watching on from the stands.
For Brazil it was as much a match in which the focus was on those on the field as it was those in the stands or unused on the bench. Neymar was present in the stadium as he continues recovery from an ankle injury — the sight of him drew huge cheers from the Brazil fans who packed out the Lusail Stadium — while Danilo and Alex Sandro were also there. Given Alex Telles was forced off injured in the early stages of the second half, Brazil will be hoping Alex Sandro will be available for the next phase. The signs are promising there, but the breadth of the squad’s reserves in defence was tested here with Marquinhos ending up as a makeshift left-back.
For those who wanted to force their way into the starting lineup, the majority failed to take their chance.
2. Cameroon impress despite group-stage exit
Cameroon needed a victory against Brazil and results elsewhere to go their way if they were to progress to the knockout rounds, but despite getting the job done, their turbulent World Cup ends at the group stage. Considering they started with a lacklustre 1-0 defeat to Switzerland, and then had to cope with the scandal surrounding goalkeeper Andre Onana’s departure, the fact that they rallied and were still in with a shout of making the round of 16 heading into the final game was credit to them.
Their heroics against Serbia — where they came back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 — gave them the platform to create history against Brazil. They were patient. For so much of the match they had their backs against the wall. Up until Aboubakar’s late winner, the closest they came was Bryan Mbeumo’s header on the stroke of half-time, which needed a world-class save from Ederson to keep out.
The script was similar in the second half, as they repelled anything and everything Brazil threw at them. And credit has to go the players and manager for their defensive organisation. Given they were without their two first-choice centre-backs for the game — both Jean-Charles Castelletto and Nicolas Nkoulou were injured — the fact they managed to keep out Brazil was a great effort. And in the absence of Onana, Epassy put in a monumental performance in goal. He was sensational in keeping out the Brazilian waves of attack. It all gave Aboubakar his shot at history.
3. Dani Alves makes Brazilian men’s World Cup history
The ageless Dani Alves cemented his place in Brazilian football history as he became the oldest men’s player to represent his country in a World Cup. He captained the side, and aged 39 years and 210 days, he overtook the previous record held by fellow right-back Djalma Santos, who was 37 years old back at the 1966 World Cup.
Dani Alves’ inclusion in the 26-man squad was questioned. Tite came in for heavy criticism for picking the veteran, given Dani Alves was struggling with a knee injury and is in the twilight of his career. But the manager — in his own, soft-spoken way — backed the former Barcelona stalwart, saying full-backs in his system didn’t necessarily need grass-scorching speed, and the 39-year-old had other qualities that would be invaluable.
The man himself said prematch that he would be happy just playing the tambourine to maintain morale, but he proved against Cameroon that he isn’t here merely to make up the numbers. He did well keeping threats from his flank at bay for so much of the match, and given Brazil’s injuries at full-back, will likely be called upon at some stage against South Korea in the round of 16.
Cameroon: Devis Epassy 8, Collins Fai 7, Enzo Embosse 7, Christopher Wooh 7, Tolo Nouhou 7, Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu 6, Pierre Kunde 6, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa 8, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting 7, Bryan Mbeumo 6, Vincent Aboubakar 7
Best and worst performers
BEST: Devis Epassy, Cameroon. The Abha No. 1 was monumental in goal for Cameroon. He stopped anything and everything thrown his way.
WORST: Gabriel Jesus, Brazil. Tricky, this one, but the Arsenal forward failed to put his stamp on the game.
Highlights and notable moments
With Brazil legend Pele in hospital suffering from a respiratory infection, Selecao fans sent the former Santos star their best.
Brazil fans hold up ‘Pelé get well soon’ during the national anthem ❤️🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/xlRC7XqiaL
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 2, 2022
Even Ismail Elfath felt bad having to send off Aboubakar.
Aboubakar celebrates his goal for Cameroon by taking off his shirt, and then is sent off for a second yellow card 😅 pic.twitter.com/JubSqTAX1L
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 2, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Epassy: “We can be proud of what we did tonight as it showed we can be a top team. We didn’t qualify, though, which is why we’re not overly happy with tonight.”
Fabinho: “If you don’t kill (the game), the opponent only needs one chance. This is what happened. Thankfully we finished top of the group. It was not a loss that eliminated us, but we can still learn from it. We created a lot, but we can’t miss so many goals.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Mbeumo’s shot on goal in the third minute of first-half stoppage time was the first shot on goal Brazil have faced this World Cup.
– Aboubakar is the first player to be sent off from a game for excessive celebration in a World Cup match going back to at least 1966.
– Cameroon ended Brazil’s World Cup group-stage unbeaten streak at 17 games. Prior to Friday, they hadn’t lost in this phase of the competition since 1998 when they were defeated by Norway.
Cameroon: Cameroon’s World Cup is over, but they’ll be back in action in March, when they host Namibia for Africa Cup of Nations qualifying on March 20.
Brazil: The Selecao will take on South Korea on Monday in the round of 16.