Bendtner 32, Rommedahl 61
Cameroon exited the World Cup after Denmark came from behind to sink the Indomitable Lions. Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring for Cameroon early on but goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl won the match for the Danes. The Netherlands qualify from Group E as a result.
Cameroon were in front after 10 minutes through skipper Eto’o as the Indomitable Lions took full advantage of some sloppy Danish play. Christian Poulsen played a blind pass to the right looking for his full-back but only managed to find Achille Emana who squared for Eto’o to fire past Thomas Sorensen. Moments later, Emana fired just wide from 20 yards. Denmark’s equaliser after 33 minutes was pure quality. Simon Kjaer played a wonderful 60 yard diagonal ball that set Rommedahl free down the right. His low cross was inch perfect across the face of the goal and Bendtner slid in at the far post to convert. In the 41st minute, Alex Song was robbed in midfield by Rommedahl who was then played through by Bendtner. Rommedahl was forced to cut the ball back to Jon Dahl Tomasson with keeper Souleymanou Hamidou diving at his feet, but Song made amends for his error with a crucial block as Tomasson shot at the unguarded net. A minute later, Martin Jorgensen miscontrolled and Eto’o stole in, playing a one-two with Emana before firing against the post.
Straight after half time, Stephane Mbia got his head to a corner at the near post and Sorensen had to tip it over the bar. After 61 minutes, Denmark moved ahead thanks to a brilliant piece of play by Rommedahl. Bendtner floated a diagonal pass into his path and Rommedahl cut inside Jean Macon and curled into the far corner past Hamidou. The chances came thick and fast in a nervy closing to the game, with Cameroon needing a goal to stay in the competition and Denmark looking to seal the game on the break. Twice substitute Mohammad Disso headed over, and Emana forced a fine save from Sorensen who got down low to his right to get a strong hand on the ball. Vincent Aboubakar fired a low shot from the edge of the area but his goal-bound strike was blocked by the prone Christian Poulsen and at the other end Hamidou saved well from Tomasson.
Cameroon Coach Paul Le Guen changed his approach after his team’s limp performance against Japan, playing his talismanic captain Eto’o through the middle. Against the Japanese, Eto’o had been stuck out on the right flank and put in a languid shift, removing the dangerous threat that everyone knows he can be. With the experienced Geremi brought into the team on the right of midfield, Eto’o was able to play where he is happiest and Cameroon reaped the rewards early on. The finish from Eto’o was clinical after Emana found him following Christian Poulsen’s error, and he nearly doubled his tally again before half time after pouncing on another mistake, this time by Jorgensen. Geremi offered a much more effective option on the right with his cultured delivery offering plenty for the Cameroon forwards to feed on. Emana was a lively threat playing off Eto’o with Pierre Webo nominally playing from the left but cutting in at every opportunity.
Denmark’s victory owed a lot to one of Dennis Rommedahl’s good days. So often flattering to deceive over the years, his place in the team has often owed much to his Olympic sprinter pace. Now 31-years-old, it was his two-footed quality that shone through, first with his inch perfect right foot cross for Bendtner’s strike then with his beautiful left foot finish for his own goal. The timing of his runs for both goals as well as other occasions when Denmark came close was impeccable. The experienced head of Tomasson alongside Bendtner in attack took the pressure off the young striker to perform and also freed him up to roam, which he did well when dropping to the half way line and floating the pass that set Rommedahl up to score.
The Indomitable Lions are the first side to exit the competition, their hopes of progress to the next round removed due to Denmark and Japan meeting in their final game. On this showing, it is a shame to see Cameroon go out as they gave everything they had to a fine game of football. One wonders what their situation would now have been had Le Guen played this line up against Japan. They may have lost to Denmark tonight but the game could have gone either way and had they had a real go at the Japanese, they might have got at least a point that would have kept them in the World Cup for now. Eto’o is too good a centre-forward to be stuck on the left for a team like Cameroon who have few other genuine stars. What they had tonight that was lacking last Monday was a side filled with endeavour and passion, and they have ultimately paid the penalty for such a mediocre showing in their opening game.
For Denmark, a win against Japan is a must. A draw would send the Japanese through on goal difference, with the Danes having lost by two goals to the Netherlands and Japan only by one. Both teams beat Cameroon by a single goal and look fairly evenly matched on paper. Japan will likely sit back and protect their narrow advantage, a roll they play very well with their disciplined defensive organisation. If Denmark can breach the backline then it is hard to see the Japanese getting a goal back. The Danes have much the better attacking options, as seen in tonight’s game and will look to take this form into the key deciding game on Thursday in Rustenburg.
Cameroon – Hamidou, Assou-Ekotto, N’Koulou, Bassong (Idrissou, 72), A Song, Geremi, Emana, Enoh (Makoun, 46), M’bia, Eto’o, Webo (Aboubakar, 79)
Denmark – Sorensen, Agger, Jacobsen, S Poulsen, Gronkjaer (Kahlenberg 66), Jorgensen (Jensen 46), Tomasson (J Poulsen, 86), Bendtner, Rommedahl