Late Cameroon goals sink Ivory Coast in key clash
JOHANNESBURG: Cameroon scored twice within three minutes in the closing stages to defeat Ivory Coast 2-0 Sunday and throw the World Cup Group of Death in Africa wide open.
Defeat was unthinkable for the Indomitable Lions as it would have left them five points behind the Elephants after just three rounds, and their dream of a fifth consecutive appearance at the quadrennial tournament in tatters. But Cameroon left it late before a capacity 75,000 crowd crammed into the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde with African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o striking after 80 minutes and substitute Guy Feutchine added the second.
A sad ending for the Ivorians was compounded by the expulsion of midfielder Kanga Akale when he received a second caution from the Moroccan referee with three minutes left. Ivory Coast featured deadly strikers Didier Drogba and Aruna Dindane and were confident after becoming the first African nation to win a World Cup qualifier in Egypt two weeks ago.
Belgium Footballer of the Year Dindane threatened with his head and feet in a first half marred by overuse of the long ball and Souleymanou Hamidou was the busier goalkeeper. The closest 1990 World Cup quarter-finalists Cameroon came to breaking the deadlock before half-time was when Timothee Atouba connected with a Jean-Joel Perrier Doumbe free kick, forcing an acrobatic save from Jean-Jacques Tizie.
Another Group 3 clash produced a thriller in Cotonou with Benin and Egypt drawing 3-3 after the home side twice led by two goals before a sparse crowd dotted around the National Stadium in stormy conditions. Benin parted company with coach Jones Attuquayefio from Ghana last week and temporary replacement Cesar Dagba looked set for a winning start as the Squirrels twice held a two goal advantage.
However, the home team tired in the closing stages and slack defending let the understrength Pharaohs off the hook with Hassan Mustafa levelling nine minutes before full-time. Oumar Tchomogo, one of the leading scorers in the qualifying competition with four goals, Jocelyn Ahoueya and Mouritala Ogoubiyi scored for Benin, who were 2-0 up at half-time.
Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Aboutrika with his third goal in as many qualifiers, and Mustafa were on target for Egypt, whose long list of absentees included injured captain Hazem Emam and rebellious striker Ahmed ‘Mido’ Hossam. With Libya surprise 1-0 winners in Sudan Saturday, only three points divide the top four teams. Cameroon have seven, Ivory Coast six and Egypt and Libya four each with seven rounds to go.
Congo replaced Senegal as leaders of Group 1 thanks to a 1-0 home victory over struggling Mali thanks to a 29th minute goal by Armel Mamouna, who also scored in the previous round.
An undistinguished game of few scoring chances in Brazzaville was settled when Mamouna controlled a long clearance and fired the ball past advancing goalkeeper Fousseyni Tangara. Mali, rated the biggest threat to 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal after finshing fourth at the recent African Nations Cup in Tunisia, have collected just one point from a possible nine.
The Eagles host the Teranga Lions of Senegal in the next round during the first weekend of September and only a victory is likely to save French coach Alain Moizan, who succeeded compatriot Henri Stambouli after the Nations Cup. Liberia and Togo squandered a chance to join Congo and Senegal on six points by battling to a dour 0-0 draw in Monrovia, where the visitors had Eric Akota sent off for stamping on Alvin Kieh in the dying minutes.
James Debbah featured in an amazing second half incident with the senior Liberian striker refusing to be substituted for 13 minutes and jeered every time he touched the ball before finally giving way to Isaac Tondo. Congo lead Senegal on goal difference, Togo, Zambia and Liberia have four points and Mali one. The Eagles began by losing in Liberia and needed a late goal from Tottenham striker Frederic Kanoute to avoid a home defeat by Zambia. The five group winners qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the top three in each pool secure places at the African Nations Cup in Egypt earlier that year. afp