THE Confederations Cup continues on Thursday and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the Group B encounter between Cameroon and Australia.
Cameroon v Australia | Thursday 16:00 | ITV
Cameroon seemed destined to seal a famous draw against well-fancied Chile in their Confederations Cup opener on Sunday, only for Arturo Vidal to give the South Americans an 82nd minute lead before Eduardo Vargas settled matters in stoppage-time.
In truth, it could and should have been over as a contest much earlier as the Indomitable Lions survived a fair few scares before falling behind. La Roja hit the woodwork and had another Vargas ruled out by the video assistant referee (VAR) system in a dominant first-half performance.
Cameroon complained they should have had a VAR referral in the first-half when Vincent Aboubakar was harshly adjudged to have pulled back Vidal as Michael Ngadjui headed in a free-kick but the Africans managed just one effort on-target and were out-shot 17-8 in a fairly convincing defeat.
Cameroon boss pleased despite defeat
Chile fired in 10 efforts from inside the Cameroon penalty box and won the expected goals count 2.52 – 0.52. It means Hugo Broos’ boys have now returned just W1-D0-L3 from their past four fixtures, scoring just once.
But Broos was pleased with his players' efforts against an undoubtedly superior Chile side and has appealed for renewed focus from his charges ahead of Thursday’s crunch clash with Australia – if the Indomitable Lions have any realistic hopes of progress, they simply must win here.
Australia eager to pick up a result
The Socceroos were beaten 3-2 by world champions Germany and although the final score suggests a tight encounter, in truth it was anything but.
Australia’s shaky backline appeared vulnerable whenever the Germans came forward, especially during a haphazard first-half. But credit to Ange Postecoglou’s men, who showed plenty of spirit, fight and work-rate to battle their way into contention.
Like Cameroon, the Socceroos were convincing losers in the expected goals ratings (1.33 – 2.51) but they did manage five efforts on-target and squeezed in five shots from inside the Germany penalty box, highlighting their favoured expansive approach under Postecoglou.
The Australian boss persisted with his three-man defence and high wing-backs in the opener and we should expect to see a similar approach here. However, the personnel may change after a testing few days travelling from Sochi to St Petersburg, as well as a few fitness concerns.
Postecoglou said pre-tournament he’d be rotating his troops so Ryan McGowan and Jackson Irvine look likely to come in, with Robbie Kruse's substitute effort against Germany pushing his claims to start. James Troisi could also contend depending on the fitness of Tom Rogic, Australia's best performer on Monday.
Preparation hasn’t been ideal in the Asian champions camp. Players not involved in the Germany game trained in wet St Petersburg conditions on Tuesday whilst others recovered and the ‘roos were blocked from training at the stadium on Sunday as the pitch requires a rest.
Stand-in skipper Mark Milligan said the two days in between matches would be enough time to prepare but having suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since losing to Japan and Qatar in 2014, I’m happy to leave the Aussies alone here.
The betting angle
Instead, Postecoglou’s full-throttle approach usually spells entertaining and there could be goals at both ends here with Both Teams To Score standing out at 4/5 (Bwin). Considering the two nations realistically need the win to progress, the permuatations of the game suggest we could be in for a treat.
It’s a selection that’s proven profitable in six of Australia’s last eight outings with the Socceroos keeping their sheets clean in only one of those eight encounters. The Aussies have scored in 16 of their last 17 but conceded twice to the likes of Thailand and Saudi Arabia recently so I’ve every faith Cameroon can notch.
The Africans have rarely thrilled under Broos’ watch but they’re an effective counter-attacking team that should be presented with plenty of opportunities on the break here. Christian Bassogog, Benjamin Moukandjo and Aboubakar all have the pace, power and trickery to do some damage.
Cameroon v Australia – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bwin)