Lyon: Cameroon proved that even Brazil’s vast talent pool cannot replace Ronaldo and Rivaldo at will. A stunning upset needed a stunning goal and Samuel Eto’o obliged to give the African champions a 1-0 win over the world champions in the Confederations Cup.
Colombia came from behind to beat 10-man New Zealand 3-1 Friday in Lyon and keep alive hopes of qualifying for the semis. New Zealand went in front through striker Raffaele De Gregorio in the 27th minute. The South American champions levelled through Jorge Lopez.
Defender Mario Yepez gave his side the lead with a superb volley before midfielder Giovanni Hernandez struck in the 85th minute. The Kiwis finished with 10 players on the field after striker Chris Killen was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 69th minute.
Punishing Brazil’s lacklustre approach to the game Thursday, Mallorca’s Eto’o pounced on a defensive error, split two central defenders and sent a looping first-time volley from well outside the penalty area over Dida for the winner eight minutes from time. The result pushed the Indomitable Lions atop group B alongside Turkey who beat the US 2-1 (briefly reported in Friday’s Late City edition).
From now on, Brazil are playing for survival in the tournament. Ronaldinho, the remaining R of the World Cup’s famed ‘Triple R’ attack, was mostly a non-factor.
As lethargic as the Brazilians were, so the Africans were as eager to wipe out the disgrace of their first-round exit in the World Cup.
Turkey confirmed their World Cup stature. They came from behind to beat the US with Tuncay Sanli earning a penalty and scoring the decider to boost the World Cup bronze medallists’ chances in the meet.
“We were in control over the full 90 minutes and should have won by a bigger margin,” Turkey coach Senol Gunes said.
The Americans went ahead after 36 minutes on a counterattack when Landon Donovan broke through to cross to striker Damarcus Beasley who made the header.
A few minutes later, Tuncay, Turkey’s best player, threatened through the middle and was sandwiched by two defenders, earning a penalty Okan Yilmaz clinically converted in the 39th.
The winner after 70 minutes was a beauty. Volkan Arslan fed a splendid through ball to Tuncay, who rounded goalie Tim Howard and slipped it into the empty net from a sharp angle.
The stands too were largely empty. Fifa president Sepp Blatter did the official rounds just ahead of the Turkey game against a backdrop of a half-empty Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium. There were only 16,944 people in the 36,000-seat stadium.
On the opening day, the Stade de France was only half full for the Japan-New Zealand game, and world champions Brazil could fill it only two-thirds for their opener against Cameroon.
Organisers did not even attempt to sell tickets for the upper tier of the stadium, where Brazil lost the 1998 World Cup final to France. Many are blaming Brazil’s loss on the absence of its top stars such as Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu and Rivaldo.
But the Indomitable Lions argue that they, too, are playing without many of their best, with striker Patrick Mboma, midfielder Lauren Etame Mayer, Salomon Olembe and defender Raymond Kalla all absent.
“Sure there were not many stars on their team, but then we were missing a lot of ours, too,” Cameroon defender Thimothee Atouba countered. “In the end a new Brazilian team played the new Cameroon team. And Cameroon won. Period. The team functioned well as a whole. There was a good alliance,” he said.