Qatar World Cup: Cameroon versus Serbia match ends in thrilling 3-3 draw in Group G
Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to score one goal and set up another as the Indomitable Lions rescued a vital point in their 3-3 draw with Serbia on Monday that ended a run of eight successive World Cup losses for the African side.
The roller-coaster Group G fixture leaves both sides on a single point from their two games, still just in contention for a last 16 place, although Cameroon must face Brazil in their final match on Friday, while Serbia take on Switzerland.
Serbia may feel it is two points dropped, but for Cameroon, who stopped the rot after eight straight World Cup losses dating back to 2002, it breathes some life into their campaign, even if they remain rank outsiders to advance to the next stage.
"In these competitions you have to show desire for victory,” Aboubakar said.
“My teammates played a great first half despite some small mistakes. We felt they (Serbia) were shaky and a bit tired. When I came on, I tried to make the most of it.
"Most important is to give the Cameroon people joy. What matters is the mindset and the collective spirit, and in that regard we played a great game.” Cameroon were without first-choice goalkeeper Andre Onana, who asked to leave the squad according to coach Rigobert Song, amid reports that the pair had a falling out.
"He is an important player but we are in a difficult tournament,” Song said.
“I know what I have to do, and that is to ensure that the team takes precedence over any individuals. Andre wanted to step out (of the squad) and we accepted that position. In a squad, discipline is important.”
It was Serbia who had started the match looking like the brighter side. Alexander Mitrovic struck the post when his quick footwork created a shooting chance from a tight angle.
He had another huge opportunity when Cameroon made a hash of clearing their lines and the ball fell to him eight yards out with the goal at his mercy, but he fired wide.
Cameroon then took the lead from a set-piece. Jean-Charles Castelletto got on the end of Nicolas N'Koulou's flick to tap home at the back post. But they never looked comfortable at the back and Serbia levelled in first half injury-time.
Dusan Tadic floated a free-kick into the box and Strahinja Pavlovic rose highest to direct the ball into the corner of the net. They grabbed the lead two minutes later when the Cameroon defence allowed Sergej Milinkovic-Savic time to pick his spot from the edge of the box and he steered the ball into the net.
The third for Serbia was a beautifully worked that was started and finished by Mitrovic. He drove towards the Cameroon box and after a succession of passes inside the penalty area, the ball was squared by Andrija Zivkovic and the burly number nine had a simple tap-in for his seventh goal in his last six caps.
That was the cue for Aboubakar to come off the bench. First he provided a perfect chip into the net for 3-2, then he beat the offside trap, raced clear and whipped over a low cross for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to level the tie and keep Cameroon alive in the competition.
"That is part of our DNA as Cameroon footballers and it was maybe what was missing in the first match (against Switzerland),” Song said.
"What was important was to show that great fighting spirit and determination. We reacted as well as we could (at 3-1 down) to get back into the match. We are progressing and improving.
"It is possible to beat Brazil. We believe in ourselves, we did not come here to just go through the motions." Cameroon still has a contribution to make to this tournament.