Cameroon vs. Denmark: 2-1 loss eliminates Cameroon from the World Cup

Cameroon was expected to be Africa’s best performer at the continent’s first World Cup. But its 2-1 loss to Denmark makes it the first team to crash out of the World Cup.

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    Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner scores a goal past Cameroon goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou, right, during the World Cup group E soccer match between Cameroon and Denmark at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday.
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Cameroon tonight became the first team to crash out of the World Cup, losing 2-1 to Denmark in an entertaining match which the African side often dominated.

The Indomitable Lions paid the price for poor finishing that failed to match their inventive approach play. Denmark punished them with two well-taken goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommendahl. But both teams could have scored more, thanks in part to some slapstick defending.

Cameroon’s French coach, Paul Le Guen, had come under fire from his own captain, Samuel Eto’o, who had publicly questioned the team’s tactics in the disappointing 1-0 defeat to Japan.

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Le Guen made three changes, including the return of Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, who had been mysteriously dropped against Japan. The most important switch, though, was positional. Eto’o, who had been played on the right side of midfield, was restored to his natural position up front.

The changes in personnel seemed to do the trick.

Cameroon started the brighter of the two teams, snapping into tackles and passing with precision. They took the lead after 10 minutes after a horrendous mistake by Christian Poulsen. His casual pass, under no pressure whatsoever, gifted Cameroon possession on the edge of the Danish area. Pierre Webo slipped it square to Eto’o who drilled it low past Sorensen. Eto’o’s screaming, fist-pumping celebration showed just how much it meant to him.

Two minutes later Achille Emana almost made it two, his low shot from distance flying a foot wide of Sorensen’s far post.

Cameroon looked the better side, but all too often the final ball was poor.

The sense of urgency that had driven them forward in the first quarter of an hour had gone. They paid for their slackness in the 33rd minute. Simon Kjaer’s long pass set Rommendahl clear down the right and his low cross was stabbed in by Bendtner.

Neither side looked convincing at the back, giving the ball away far too easily and far too often. Defensive errors presented both sides with chances to take the lead just before half-time. Song was caught in possession and Denmark broke at speed. Rommendahl again was the creator but Tomasson’s shot was well-blocked by the recovering Song.

Cameroon responded immediately. Eto’o hit the post before Emana was given the freedom of the Danish penalty area to saunter through, but shot straight at Sorensen.

The match turned on the hour mark. Cameroon could have taken the lead after a flowing move ended with Webo turning well in the penalty area and shooting straight at Sorensen. It was a costly miss. The cross had come from Assou-Ekotto who now found himself out of position. Bendtner turned provider, releasing an unmarked Rommendahl down the right. He cut inside and curled a low left-footed shot beyond Souleymanou.

Le Guen threw on more strikers but their finishing was erratic. When Emana managed to hit the target with a low-angled drive, Sorensen was equal to it.

Cameroon had been many pundits’ tip to be Africa’s best performers at the continent’s first World Cup. It was an expectation that Le Guen shared.

“It’s a great disappointment,” he said afterwards. “We had a lot of hopes.”

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