Vindicated Eto'o unable to prevent Cameroon crashing out
SAMUEL Eto'o may be minded to ask, as he examines the wreckage of Cameroon's World Cup campaign, not what he can do for his country, but what his country can do for him. Despite his early goal, Cameroon last night became the first team to be knocked out of the World Cup.
The Inter Milan striker, a totemic figure in his homeland, entered this tournament under a cloud of criticism from Roger Milla, the man who first brought Cameroon to the world's consciousness. Eto'o had never produced for his country, said his childhood hero. His heart was with his clubs, not his homeland.
On this evidence, Milla could not have been more wrong. Eto'o spent his evening in menacing mood, opening the scoring in ruthless fashion after 10 minutes and tormenting a nervous Danish defence at every turn.
He bristled and bubbled, a coiled spring of unceasing energy. That Cameroon are out of the tournament is despite him, not because of him. In Pretoria, his country let him down.
He deserves a less profligate strike partner than Pierre Webo, who spurned four or five chances, and a steadier supplier than Achille Emana. And he deserves a better defence than the one that was picked apart expertly on the counter-attack by Denmark.
After Eto'o had struck, Emana laying the ball into his path after Christian Poulsen needlessly ceded possession on the edge of his own box, Cameroon should have eased home. Instead, Simon Kjaer produced the pass of the tournament, an artful, raking 50-yard ball straight to Dennis Rommedahl. The winger slid the ball into the path of Nicklas Bendtner and the Danes were level.
It nearly did not last, Eto'o striking the post just moments after Alex Song had produced a wonderful block to deny Jon-Dahl Tomasson as the encounter turned into a blockbuster. But not one with a happy ending for Eto'o. Denmark broke again, Rommedahl twisting past Jean Makoun and firing low into the far corner. There was no way back.
Cameroon manager Paul Le Guen insisted he would not resign despite his country's exit. "We managed to get to the World Cup, there have been some difficulties and after July my bosses will decide," he said.
"We were close, but we just could not get there. I am just very sad for the Cameroonian nation."
At least, Eto'o can console himself, it was not his lack of effort that caused the hurt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Cameroon -- Souleymanou, Mbia, Nkoulou, Bassong (Idrissou 72), Assou-Ekotto, Geremi, Song, Enoh (Makoun h-t), Emana, Eto'o, Webo (Aboubakar 78).
Denmark -- Sorensen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S Poulsen, C Poulsen, Jorgensen (Jensen h-t), Rommedahl, Tomasson (J Poulsen 86), Gronkjaer (Kahlenberg 66), Bendtner.
Ref -- Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).