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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

World Cup 2022: Andre Onana ‘wanted to step out’ of Cameroon squad

There are reports that Andre Onana (left) and coach Rigobert Song, pictured during a training session on Sunday, have fallen out
Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listingsFull coverage details

Cameroon coach Rigobert Song says goalkeeper Andre Onana asked not to play their second group match at the World Cup amid reports of a falling out between the pair in Qatar.

Inter Milan keeper Onana started for the Indomitable Lions in their Group G opener against Switzerland, a 1-0 defeat, but he was replaced by Devis Epassy for Monday’s 3-3 draw against Serbia.

He was not listed among the substitutes.

There were reports the 26-year-old had been sanctioned for disciplinary reasons, but no details have been released by the country’s football federation.

“He is an important player, but we are in a difficult tournament,” said Song.

“I know what I have to do, and that is to ensure that the team takes precedence over any individuals.

“Andre wanted to step out and we accepted that position. In a squad, discipline is important.”

Onana started all of Cameroon’s games this year, having served a nine-month doping ban last year.

Asked by news agency AFP whether he would start Cameroon’s final match, Onana’s replacement Devis Epassy said “you’ll have to ask the coach” and insisted there was no problem in the camp.

Indomitable Lions ‘show DNA’ with Brazil test to come

Cameroon fought back from 3-1 down to grab a point and keep alive their hopes of progressing to the last 16.

Substitute Vincent Aboubakar was pivotal in their comeback, beating the offside trap to pull a goal back in stunning fashion with a scooped lob before setting up the equaliser three minutes later.

The result also ended an unwanted record for Cameroon of eight consecutive defeats at the World Cup, a run stretching back to the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.

“In these competitions you have to show desire for victory,” said Aboubakar.

“My team-mates played a great first half despite some small mistakes. We felt they [Serbia] were shaky and a bit tired. When I came on, I tried to make the most of it.

“[The] most important [thing] is to give the Cameroon people joy. What matters is the mindset and the collective spirit, and in that regard we played a great game.”

One point from two games means the Central Africans will have to beat five-time champions Brazil in their final group match on Friday (19:00 GMT) to have a chance of going through to the last 16.

Former Liverpool defender Song said his side’s spirited second-half showing against Serbia was ‘part of our DNA as Cameroon footballers’ and thinks they can pull off an upset against the South Americans.

“What was important was to show that great fighting spirit and determination,” the 46-year-old added.

“We reacted as well as we could [at 3-1 down] to get back into the match. We are progressing and improving.

“It is possible to beat Brazil. We believe in ourselves, we did not come here to just go through the motions. Cameroon still has a contribution to make to this tournament.”

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