It was double historic win for Cameroon as they beat Brazil 1-0 on Friday night. Yet, like that of Tunisia over France, it turned a phyrric victory.
Result elsewhere worked against their aspirations. Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia means that Cameroon are eliminated despite their first win of a World Cup match since the 1-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in June 2002.
Their defeat of Brazil is also the first time the five time World Cup winners had lost to an African team.
But Brazil whose line-up were almost completely overhauled had no regrets. They still topped the Group G table ahead of the Swiss on goal difference.
They will face Group H runners-up South Korea, who beat Portugal 2-1, in the next round.
Brazil’s first-ever defeat to an African opponent at a World Cup will, however, no doubt sting as their reserve players were left to rue the fact they did not take the chance handed to them by their coach.
Safe in the knowledge that a draw would secure top spot, while even a defeat might still be enough, Tite benched Vinicius Jr and made nine changes in all to the team that beat Switzerland 1-0 in their last match.
Losing, however, was not part of the plan.
“It’s a warning signal,” said the 39-year-old Dani Alves, one of the players brought in for the game.
“There is no weak rival. Here is the lesson, we need to stay switched on throughout the game. One detail and it’s over.
“We end today with the feeling that a beautiful day slipped through the hands of us players who weren’t playing much.”
Cameroon, whose last win at the World Cup was in 2002 against Saudi Arabia, were on the back foot for most of the match but sprung to life at the death. Aboubakar powered a header past Ederson then was sent off for collecting a second yellow for taking off his shirt in celebration.
Brazil had by far the larger share of possession and carved out many more chances than their opponents. But in the end it was Cameroon who got the only statistic that actually counted.
“We dominated the match and had several chances, the only thing missing was a goal,” said Eder Militao.
“We should have scored but a lack of attention in one play allowed them to score. It’s frustrating considering the way we played.”
The match played out in a subdued atmosphere in the cavernous Lusail Stadium, the tournament’s biggest venue, with Brazil’s reserves eager to impress but Tite’s side unable to assert their usual flair.
Gabriel Martinelli was Brazil’s liveliest player and nearly put the five-time champions ahead in the 14th minute when he was picked out by Fred’s ball over the top, but the Arsenal forward’s header drew a fine reaction save from Devis Epassy.
Cameroon offered nearly no attacking threat until the first half injury time, when Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu’s cross was met with a powerful downward header by Bryan Mbeumo that Ederson clawed away one-handed at full stretch.
Tite had seen enough and made a triple change soon after the interval, bringing on Marquinho for the injured Alex Telles, and replacing Rodrygo and Fred with Everton Ribeiro and Bruno Guimaraes.
The substitutes stirred Brazil into a sudden flurry of chances with Epassy forced into action three times in as many minutes.
First, Martinelli stung the Cameroon keeper’s palms with a snap shot in the 56th minute.
Next, Militao tried his luck from the ensuing corner coaxing a fumble out of the Cameroon keeper, who recoverd to scramble the ball out to safety, before the lively Antony got in on the act, forced Epassy into a diving save to keep out his curling effort.
Tite sent on Pedro in the 64th minute and Raphinha in the 79th as Brazil sought to save their perfect record in the group, but Cameroon clung on until Aboubakar arrived in the right place at the right time to seize his moment.