Cameroon: Long Road Back for Indomitable Lions

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Alexander Song apologises for a foul in Cameroon's clash with Mexico.

Cameroon's loss to Mexico in Natal on Friday night makes their qualification for the World Cup second round look a long shot.

The game's only goal was scored by Oribe Peralta just past the hour-mark, but it was all that the central American side deserved as they created the better openings and looked the more composed side.

Cameroon battled, perhaps because of the rain, though that should be no real excuse. The likelier truth is that they were outfoxed by a better opponents. They will need to be vastly improved in their next match against Croatia.

"The conditions weren't an excuse for our performance," Cameroon's German coach Volker Finke confirmed to reporters. "We can beat any team on our day, but we'll have to be at our best to beat Croatia. It won't be easy because they're in the same position as us.

"We had some problems through the middle of midfield in the first 20 minutes or so, but we eventually adapted. The second half we were better, but overall we're disappointed.

"We had a few chances to score, and didn't. They had goals ruled out, but that's the way it is. Now we've got five days before our next match, which will already be decisive for our World Cup."

If they were to make the knockout stages then this was the game you felt they had to win, with more difficult clashes to come, including against hosts Brazil.

But on a perfect pitch, despite the conditions, they found it tough to retain possession and looked disjointed at times, perhaps raising further questions of their unity as a team.

The game also showed the shortcomings of Samuel Eto'o, an automatic pick for his talismanic star quality, but now at the age of 33 not as mobile, or as effective, as in days gone by.

How Cameroon move forward from here is something for debate. It is not as if they have a raft of options on the bench to be able to change things quickly for Wednesday's meeting with Croatia. In many ways, this is as good as it gets.

Mexico deserved their win; they had two good goals disallowed and a number of other fine chances.

They remain probably the third best team in this pool, but victory here has given them hope, especially with Croatia's loss to Brazil.

That makes their meeting with the European side a potential decider for second place and they may well go into it just needing a draw.

But we should not kid ourselves that they are a side of great prowess.

They were in many ways made to look good by Cameroon and will come unstuck against better teams.

We should too reflect on the match officials, who for the second game running made some speculative decisions.

Mexico probably should have had two more goals but for offside flags and had they not scored, the spotlight would have fallen solely on the officials.

Giovani dos Santos was the unlucky Mexican to have two goals disallowed, but still collected the Man of the Match prize.

"Despite difficult circumstances, we managed to push forward and put on a nice display," he said. "Playing at the World Cup is always a unique experience, and I'm grateful to the coach for the trust he placed in me. I feel good -- I'm happy and motivated."

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