Cameroon, Finland Take the Lead in Football Cup

Olympic Cameroon beat Indonesia 2-0 before Olympic Finland defeated Viet Nam’s Under-23s 1-0 in the opening games of the Ho Chi Minh City International Football Tournament on Wednesday.

The Cameroon side, who lost 0-1 to Olympic China in Guangzhou on Sunday as part of their preparations for the Beijing Olympics, scored a goal in each half at Thong Nhat Stadium.

In the first half, the African lion cubs dominated Indonesia under British coach Peter Withe, who had said upon his arrival in Ho Chi Minh City three days ago that his players were here to win all three games and take away the trophy.

Striker Christian Bekamengo, who stood out for Cameroon in the match, scored the first goal of the round-robin tournament with a header from a cross when no Indonesian defenders challenged him.

After the break, Indonesia controlled the game better as Withe fielded experienced substitute Syamsul Bachri. The playmaker triggered many attacks in which he was just behind the two Indonesian forwards to support them. In one of the situations, Bachri got a good chance but his finish from outside the box was over the bar.

After about 25 minutes under pressure, the Cameroonian juniors managed to restore a balance. Shortly after, substitute Enama Okouda doubled the gap with a finish very close to the goal line.

After the goal, Withe replaced a midfielder with a striker in the hope that his three forwards in front of the Cameroon goal could score. However, the change had no effect on the result as the African side managed to push their opponents away. 

Cameroon won the 2000 Sydney Olympics but did not perform well in the 2004 Athens Olympics, which is why the African country’s football federation has worked out a campaign for the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

After the opener, local fans laid out a 20x30-meter Vietnamese flag to support their beloved players, hoping for a good result for the team’s three-match campaign to defend their championship. 

Meandering play characterized the first half, mostly counterplay with neither Viet Nam U-23 nor Olympic Finland making any break of consequence.

After the break, Viet Nam coach Alfred Riedl fielded Tran Minh Thien to replace left-field defender Nguyen Van Bien, who had made several mistakes. The substitute did no better. In the 56th minute as he was trying to return the ball to his teammates, he inadvertently gave it to striker Porokara Roni, who got around goalkeeper To Vinh Loi with a low shot.  

Viet Nam striker Nguyen Anh Duc (front) is challenged by a Finland defender in front of the Finland goal (Photo: VietnamNet)

Viet Nam striker Nguyen Anh Duc had a good chance to equalize three minutes later but his header from inside the box scraped over the bar.

After that, the hosts failed to create any clear chances and it was easy for Finland goalkeeper and captain Korhonen Janne to stop the high crosses from the opposite side.

 In the 80th minute, midfielder Minh Chuyen was replaced by striker Duoc Em in the hope that three forwards might do something better. But the match ended with a win for the players from Scandinavia.

The tournament’s actual name is the BV Cup. Named after title sponsor Bach Viet Co., it is Viet Nam’s last encounter with international competition before the 15th Asian Games in December.

This Friday, the hosts will play Indonesia and Olympic Cameroon will go up against Olympic Finland. Then on Sunday, Indonesia will meet the Scandinavians before the locals play the Africans speedsters.

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Reported by Tuong Thuy

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