Serbia defeat Cameroon 4-3 in Final Stop on the Road to South Africa
So remember how said Le Guen would probably play his likely starting 11 and that the time for experimenting was over? Yeah, well that didn’t happen today. Le Guen threw convention out the window against Serbia today in Belgrade. The starting 11 featured 5 different starters from the Portugal match and a 6th player positioned in a different part of the pitch. Not only did the players change but so did the formation. Out was the 4-3-3 and in was a 3-4-3. Stunning.
Here is the lineup trotted out by Le Guen (Samuel Eto’o was not eligible to compete due to his red card against Portugal):
Hamidou (c)-Nkoulou, Bassong, Assou Ekotto-Mandjeck, Nguémo, Mbia, Makoun- Webó, Choupo-Moting, Aboubakar
The gambit sure did produce some fireworks, especially in the first half. Goals flowed both for and against Cameroon. And the goals came entirely too easily both for Cameroon and for Serbia. I’m glad the Cameroon attack was able to efficiently eviscerate the Serbian defense but the Serbs were equally efficient and ruthless when tearing the Indomitable Lion defense to pieces. In the end the theatrics of the first half should not have pleased either manager as the defensive deficiencies were what allowed the goals to pour in with ease.
The first half produced a whopping 6 goals, 2 of them for Cameroon and 4 against. The first goal would take only 5 minutes in coming as Cameroon went ahead 1-0 through a Benoït Assou Ekotto cross that Achille Webó headed home. For those keeping count that is now three goals in three games that have come from Assou Ekotto crosses from the left side of the pitch. Serbia leveled matters in the 16th minute when Souleymanou Hamidou came out to try and claim a low cross in the Cameroon box but missed allowing the ball to trickle over to the unmarked Miloš Krasić who blasted into the empty Cameroon goal. The blame on this goal has to go to Hamidou. If he is going to come for that cross, he simply must get it.
Cameroon would retake the lead only minutes later in the 20th minute as Landry Nguémo was found in miles of space on the left midfield. Nguémo did well to fend off the first Serbian defender to get there and then quickly whipped in a cross that Webó again clinically finished with his head. For those keeping count that is now three goals in two games for Webó, all with his head, all off of crosses from the left hand side of the pitch.
As was the case after the first goal Cameroon did not hold onto their lead for long. Serbia quickly equalized again in the 25th minute through treble winner and captain Dejan Stanković who took a back heel from one of his teammates and blasted a shot just outside the 18 yard box past Hamidou who could not get his arm to into the bottom corner of the goal. Serbia then would take the lead for the first time in the 44th minute courtesy of a questionable penalty converted by Nenad Milijaš. The penalty and a yellow card were given against Stéphane Mbia for making contact with the face of Milan Jovanović. In way was this a penalty in my opinion as the contact was very minimal if present at all. Jovanović unquestionably went to ground to win the penalty and succeeded in deceiving the referee. If this had been called at the World Cup I would be absolutely livid. The 4th Serbian goal of the half came in the waning seconds. A Serb cross into the box saw Sébastien Bassong whiff on the clearance. Dejan Stanković then headed the ball towards the six yard box and Marko Pantelić flicked it in for the goal.
It should be pointed out that Le Guen ditched the 3-4-3 formation after the second goal I believe and went back to the familiar 4-3-3. In whichever formation they were in the defense was simply not up to par. That goes for Hamidou in goal as well. As calamitous as Carlos Kameni can be at times he is also a brilliant shot stopper. Hamidou never looked comfortable in goal. Certainly his defense did not help but he was the culprit on the first goal and he looked shaky on every cross into the box.
Le Guen made two changes to the line up to start the second half with Achille Emana replacing the youngster Vincent Aboubakar and Geremi coming in for Georges Mandjeck. Geremi became the right back in the formation and Emana took up his familiar position. In about the 64th minute Le Guen took out Cameroon’s best player on the day Webó for Mohammadou Idrissou and Joël Matip replaced Nicolas Nkoulou which shifted Mbia back into a center back role.
The changes paid dividends in the 67th minute when a Geremi cross from the right wing found Maxim Choupo-Moting in the box to head past the helpless Serbian keeper. For Choupo-Moting it was his first ever Cameroon goal in just his second cap.
In the 77th minute Le Guen took off Choupo-Moting for Gaëtan Bong, swapping one two cap player for another. The rest of the game would produce a few half chances for each side but the teams were decidedly more composed from a defensive perspective in the second half. Hamidou who looked very uncomfortable in the first half was much more composed in the second and did not look as likely to produce an error or gift a goal as he did with Serbia’s first. Serbia looked more likely to grab another goal prior to Cameroon’s third but after that point it was the Indomitable Lions who seemed more likely to score though they never got particularly close, there were a couple of occasions where the Serb defense had to scramble.
The most valuable lesson of the second half was probably to show that Geremi is still capable of being a valuable member of the squad. He made himself available on the right wing and whipped in a number of balls into the box without leaving the defense too exposed. I don’t think Geremi should start but as a substitute you could certainly do worse. None of the other Cameroon subs impressed too much. I don’t think I heard either Matip’s name or Bong’s called once after they came in the game. Not necessarily a bad thing, though it does mean I have no idea where Bong was playing.
I don’t think too much can be taken out of this game as Le Guen for some reason totally changed things around. It is nice to see Cameroon score three goals without Eto’o but the goals were made easy by some bad Serbian defending. There are a few things that we can take from the match. One that the 3-4-3 will not make another appearance, I hope anyway. I also think this spells the end of Bassong’s chances at starting, I would guess it will be Mbia paired with Nkoulou. Finally I think we can safely say that Idrissou will not be Eto’o’s partner. Webó with two more goals would seem to have won that position but Choupo-Moting probably still has an outside chance. Still I think Webó will be starting against Japan.
At the end of the day both managers will probably be glad that all the players left the pitch on their own and no injuries seem to have been incurred. Finally two of Cameroon’s group mates were also in friendly action with differing results. The Netherlands annihilated Hungary 6-1 but it came at a price as Arjen Robben picked up an injury and will not travel with the team to South Africa. Whether he eventually joins them there is still to be determined. Meanwhile Denmark, who are already in South Africa fell 1-0 to South Africa.
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