LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Vincent Aboubakar’s powerful header was historic for Cameroon and Africa at the World Cup.
The stoppage-time goal didn't help Cameroon reach the round of 16 despite the team's 1-0 win over Brazil's reserves on Friday. But it handed the five-time champions their first group-stage loss in 24 years, and gave Africa its first win against the Seleçao at the tournament.
Aboubakar was sent off after a second booking for taking off his shirt during his celebration, leading him to miss the final minutes of his team’s big victory.
“I didn’t even realize that this was such a historic victory,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said. “We are one of the African countries that played the most World Cups, and now we’ve beaten Brazil."
Brazil had won its previous seven matches against African opponents at the World Cup.
“We can be proud of what we've done tonight,” Cameroon goalkeeper Devis Epassy said. “We worked very hard. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t qualify, and that’s why are are not too happy.”
Brazil, which had already reached the knockout stage after victories over Serbia and Switzerland, still finished first in Group H. It ended with six points, the same as Switzerland, but the South Americans had a better goal difference. Cameroon ended with four points and Serbia had one.
“The loss doesn’t eliminate us, but we have to learn from it,” midfielder Fabinho said. “The objective was to finish first in the group and we did.”
Brazil will face South Korea in the round of 16, while the Swiss will play against Portugal.
It was the 11th straight time Brazil won its World Cup group. It had won 17 straight group games since a 2-1 loss to Norway in 1998 in France. It had lost only one of its last 29 group matches at the tournament.
Cameroon hadn’t won any of its last nine World Cup matches, with eight losses and a draw — against Ireland in its opening game at the 2002 tournament.
Brazil was still without the injured Neymar, but the star forward was at Lusail Stadium to watch the match with his teammates.
Both teams created some good scoring chances, but couldn’t capitalize on them until Aboubakar's winner off a right-flank cross by Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, who had entered the match in the 86th minute.
The Cameroon captain threw his shirt to the ground near the corner flag and waited for his teammates as they rushed toward him. He then left the field after the referee showed him the red card.
Brazil finally conceded an attempt on target after not having done so in the first two matches.
Cameroon, which opened with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland, had endured a small crisis after its 3-3 draw with Serbia, with goalkeeper Andre Onana being sent home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with coach Song.
With his start Friday, the 39-year-old Dani Alves became the oldest Brazilian to play at a World Cup, ahead of 38-year-old central defender Thiago Silva, Brazil’s captain in Qatar. Alves’ last game at a World Cup had been in the round of 16 of the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
NEYMAR THE STAR
Neymar joined his teammates at the stadium for the first time since injuring his right ankle in Brazil’s opener against Switzerland.
He wasn't limping as he got off the team’s bus and even played with the ball as his teammates warmed up. The crowd cheered loudly when the stadium’s big screen showed him singing the national anthem before the match. He later sat in the stands behind the bench, with fans trying to get close and take photos of him.
Brazilian fans showed their support for soccer great Pelé, who is hospitalized in Sao Paulo with a respiratory infection.
They displayed a banner with the image of Pelé holding a soccer ball behind one of the goals, and opened a large flag with an image of the Brazil great and the words: “Pelé. Get well soon.” One fan in the stands held up a jersey with a photo of Pelé on it.
Brazil left back Alex Telles, who was replacing injured regular starter Alex Sandro, had to be replaced with a right knee injury, as did Gabriel Jesus. Both will undergo tests Saturday.
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