World Cup star banished amid 'ridiculous' drama in Cameroon thriller

Cameroon coach Rigobert Song came under fire for the decision to axe first choice keeper Andre Onana for the World Cup clash with Serbia. Pic: Getty/AAP
Cameroon coach Rigobert Song came under fire for the decision to axe first choice keeper Andre Onana for the World Cup clash with Serbia. Pic: Getty/AAP

Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana may have played his last game at the World Cup in Qatar after being banished from his side's thrilling 3-3 draw with Serbia. Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to rescue a point for Cameroon after scoring one superb goal and creating another as they came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Serbs.

While the match itself was one of the most action-packed so far in Qatar, the drama started before kick-off when Cameroon coach Rigobert Song dropped first choice goalkeeper Onana from his starting XI. The initial explanation for the shock axing was that the Inter Milan keeper had been punished for unspecified disciplinary reasons, with the 26-year-old not even earning a spot on the bench.

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Prominent football reporter Fabrizio Romano claimed that Onana’s coach “insisted” on a “different style of goalkeeping” that was “more traditional” - something the shot-stopper was unwilling to compromise on. “Onana has no intention to change his style — tense situation & so he’s been excluded,” Romano added.

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It was later reported that Onana had left the World Cup and would not be returning, but Cameroon's coach said his No.1 could still play a part in his country's final World Cup group game against Brazil, despite being banished from the squad for the Serbia draw. Brazil have already qualified for the round of 16 after their 1-0 win over Switzerland made it two wins from two for Tite's men.

It didn't take Cameroon long to feel the impact of Onana's absence, with replacement keeper Devis Epassy letting in a tame shot from Serbia's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic that Socceroos great Craig Foster insisted Cameroon's first choice goalkeeper probably would have saved.

“This is the one where you are thinking that Onana is going to get a strong hand on that,” Craig Foster said on SBS. “It has cost them.”

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Song confirmed after the match that Onana had not been sent home from the World Cup but stressed that it was up to the player and whether he was willing to put the team first, to determine whether he would feature for the African side again in Qatar.

"He is a very important player but we are in a competition and my role is to put the team first ahead of an individual," Song said. "He is one of the best keepers in Europe. It's a big risk that I took. But I'm the dad of these kids so when I have to take risks and make decisions, I do that and I stand by what I do."

He added: “Right now we are working with those who want to defend the our country’s colours, what interests me are the players who are here.

“I’ve asked him to wait, we will have the opportunity to see if he can stay (at the World Cup). It also depends on him as he will also have to obey our rules. Let’s see if that’s possible.”

The explosive situation left football fans in a state of shock on social media, with Cameroon's coach coming under fire from many supporters for axing one of his side's most important players.

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Brazil and Portugal through to round of 16

In other action, Brazil booked their spot in the round of 16 with one group game to spare after edging Switzerland 1-0 in a tense and tight affair. Midfielder Casemiro lashed home the only goal of the game with a sumptuous drive into the top corner late in the second half to make it two wins from two for Tite's men.

That result means Cameroon and Serbia are both on one point and need to win their final Group G match to stand a chance of going through to the knockout stages. Cameroon face already-qualified Brazil while Serbia take on Switzerland, who have three points.

Portugal are through to the round of 16 after beating Uruguay 2-0. Bruno Fernandes scored both goals to make it two wins from two, guaranteeing passage to the knockout stage. For Uruguay, however, the defeat leaves them with just one point and no goals after two games, needing a win against Ghana on Saturday morning to have any hopes of advancing.

Centre right, Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring two goals against Uruguay to seal Portugal's progress to the World Cup knockout stages.
Bruno Fernandes (R) scored both of his side's goals against Uruguay to seal a 2-0 win and Portugal's progress to the World Cup knockout stages. Pic: Getty

Ghana sit second in the group following their 3-2 win over South Korea earlier on Monday (Tuesday AEDT). Ghana's victory came after Mohammed Kudus scored twice in a will match against Korea that keeps their World Cup hopes alive and leaves Paulo Bento's Korean side facing an early exit.

Mohammed Salisu opened the scoring against the run of play midway through the first half at Education City Stadium and Ajax midfielder Kudus doubled Ghana's lead. However, Korea, who looked toothless in the first half, roared back after the break, pulling level through a quick-fire double from forward Cho Gue-sung either side of the hour mark.

Ghana looked shell-shocked as the Korean fans celebrated wildly but they were back in front in the 68th minute when Kudus finished calmly at the back post after his teammate Inaki Williams failed to connect with a cross from the left.

with agencies

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