The final match in Group B between Cameroon and the USA produced the first goalless draw of the tournament. Both teams looked jaded and out of sorts in the stifling heat and dished up a somewhat mediocre show for the small crowd. The draw means that by finishing top of the group Cameroon avoid hosts France and take on Colombia in the first semi-final in Lyon on Thursday.
With only honour at stake, Winnie Schaefer blooded six newcomers in Cameroon’s starting line-up while Bruce Arena continued to look for that happy blend.
Both teams began the game sluggishly in the oppressive heat in Gerland stadium. Though the Americans enjoyed the majority of early possession, their moves tended to break down before reaching the African’s penalty area. Eddie Lewis came close when he darted down the left and brought a save out of Eric Kwekeu. Then, when the ball span back to the winger he seemed unsure of whether to cross or shoot, and his second effort was finally held by Lucien Mettomo on his goal-line (14’).
The incident seemed to stir both sides. Thimothée Atouba sent Joël Epalle free on the left flank and his cross found Joseph-Desire Job on the six-yard line but the Middlesbrough striker headed over (18’). Both teams were now using the width of the field, and through one foray Bobby Convey’s shot was stopped by defender Njanka (25’). Joseph-Desire Job had two opportunities in quick succession for the Indomitable Lions (26’ et 27’) but twice Howard proved too good.
Bruce Arena’s charges looked more spirited when they came out for the second half, with Kyle Martino drawing a fine save out of Kwekeu and Kirovski scooping the rebound over the bar (51’). Cameroon hit back once more when Atouba broke through the centre and laid the ball to Job, only for the striker to be foiled by Howard for the third time (68’).
Epalle, who had looked dangerous on the right all evening, then picked out Achille Emana who in turn laid it up for Valéry Mézague; the striker dummied and advanced into the penalty area before unleashing a powerful shot that Howard did brilliantly to parry (73’). Epalle sent over a final cross but Samuel Etoo missed the target (80’). Honours even then, and the first goalless draw of the tournament. The Indomitable Lions finish top of Group B and the USA are on their way home with a solitary point for their efforts. Last summer’s glorious defeat has never seemed so far away…