Monday 04 April 2022, 14:00

Third time lucky for Cameroon?

  • Cameroon will meet Brazil for the third time at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

  • The Indomitable Lions lost both the previous matches in 1994 and 2014

  • Rigobert Song’s side have reasons to believe the outcome will be different this time

Will it be third time lucky for Cameroon? Rigobert Song’s side have been drawn with Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. While the Africans have never faced the two European sides at the world finals before, they know a thing or two about facing A Seleção, having played and lost to them twice before on the big stage. FIFA looks back at those two defeats, at USA 1994 and Brazil 2014, and explains why the Indomitable Lions have realistic hopes of a different result when the two sides lock horns on Friday 2 December at Qatar 2022.

Cameroon's Rigobert Song walks out against Brazil at USA 1994

USA 1994: An occasion to forget for Song

After becoming the first African side to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Italy four years earlier, Cameroon went into the group game with Brazil in confident mood after a creditable 2-2 draw with Sweden. Coached by Frenchman Henri Michel, they acquitted themselves well in the opening 45 minutes against the South Americans and went in at half-time trailing by a solitary goal, scored by Romario.

Cameroon’s hopes evaporated just after the hour mark, however, when a 17-year-old Rigobert Song picked up a red card. Not even the arrival of Roger Milla – who, at 42, would beat his own record as the tournament’s oldest goalscorer in finding the net in the 6-1 defeat to Russia that closed Cameroon’s campaign – could turn the tide. Marcio Santos doubled Brazil’s lead, with Bebeto adding a third to close out an easy 3-0 win. Cameroon finished bottom of a section won by Brazil, who went on to lift their fourth world title.

Brazil 2014: Hosts prove too strong

This time around Cameroon were out of the competition before they even faced tournament hosts Brazil in Brasilia, with respective 1-0 and 4-0 defeats to Mexico and Croatia having put paid to their chances. Neymar put the Brazilians ahead on 17 minutes only for Joel Matip to equalise for the Indomitable Lions a few minutes later. Cameroonian hopes of a positive end to their campaign soon evaporated, however, as Neymar scored a second and Fred and Fernandinho also got on the score-sheet for the well-drilled hosts. Cameroon finished bottom of their section again, while a star-studded Brazil side that also featured Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Hulk, Marcelo and Paulinho endured a painful 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals.

Song salutes Cameroonian spirit

While Brazil still have a constellation of stars to count on in 2022 – among them Vinicius Junior and Neymar – Song, who took on the Cameroon job at the end of February, believes his players will be galvanised by the chance to play the South Americans. “It’s great to come up against players who have a reputation. It’s always a motivation,” the 45-year-old told FIFA after the Final Draw. Cameroon have their own high-profile players with lots of UEFA Champions League and Europa League experience under their belts, among them Bayern Munich’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Karl Toko Ekambi of Lyon, Andre Onana of Ajax, and Napoli’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. With the exception of the injured Anguissa, they all took part in the superb win over Algeria in the third round of the African qualifiers for Qatar 2022, with Cameroon going through on away goals after the two sides had drawn 2-2 on aggregate. “The most interesting thing wasn’t the fact that we won but the spirit I’ve instilled in my players, who pushed themselves to the limit and got the result at the very end,” said Song in reference to the late goal that gave them a thrilling play-off win over Algeria, one that came four minutes into stoppage-time in extra-time. “That’s what’s important. And that’s what we have to work on even more, because you only win competitions by playing with lots of energy, drive and determination. "I think the only way is up for us and we’re going to try to go even further because that’s what Cameroonian football is all about. Cameroonian players stand out for their drive and determination. I think we can make it happen and make a difference.”

Rigobert Song after the win v Algeria