Cameroon missed a late penalty as their World Cup preparations were dealt something of a blow in a 2-1 defeat to Paraguay on Thursday.
Cameroon, ostensibly using the international friendly as preparation for their Group A opener against Mexico on June 13, went 2-0 down thanks to goals from Oscar Romero and Roque Santa Cruz, before Maxim Choupo-Moting found the net with 15 minutes remaining to set up a tense final 15 minutes.
The African side struggled to create clear-cut chances but were awarded a dubious penalty in the 86th minute. That moment of luck was squandered, however, as Mohamadou Idrissou’s saved attempt condemned Volker Finke’s side to defeat.
With Paraguay finishing bottom of their qualification group for this summer’s World Cup, the friendly was more for Cameroon’s benefit than the South American’s, yet it was Victor Genes’ side who took the lead after just four minutes.
Romero was the scorer, the midfielder turning home Ramon Coronel’s cross with a left-footed effort from 10 yards out.
Cameroon sought an immediate response and proved marginally more threatening than their opponents over the remainder of the first half, as Benjamin Moukandjo and Vincent Aboubaker both failed to find the net with decent openings.
Paraguay managed just two shots of note in the second half, yet with one of them they doubled their advantage. Santa Cruz this time delivered the finish, the ex-Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City striker finding the bottom right corner after being played in by Junior Alonso.
With 20 minutes remaining that looked like clinching the win for Paraguay, but Cameroon finally found something approaching a cutting edge to throw that into doubt. Choup-Moting was the player rewarded for his endeavour—reacting quickest after his initial header had been blocked to beat the substitute goalkeeper Victor Centurion.
Not wanting to suffer defeat Cameroon continued to push forward, and it looked like they would finally get their reward when Moukandjo went down under moderate pressure from Gustavo Gamez.
The defender protesting his innocence but the referee waved away the protests. Idrissou, however, was unable to take full advantage of the decision, as Centurion sprang to his left to push away Idrissou’s unconvincing effort.
Cameroon had further half-chances in the closing minutes, but Paraguay hung on for a victory that perhaps gives them something to build on heading into future challenges.
Cameroon, meanwhile, will know they must improve in a number of areas before they head to Brazil in two weeks’ time.