Cameroon 2, Colombia 1
NAPLES, Italy (AP) _ He has gone from retirement to the World Cup. At 38, Roger Milla is the main reason Cameroon has made history.
The African champions became the first nation from that continent to reach the quarterfinals of the world soccer championships, defeating Colombia 2-1 in overtime Saturday. Milla, a non-starter, scored both goals, giving him four in the tournament, tied with Spain’s Michel for the overall lead.
″He infuses a winning spirit into the team,″ Valery Nepomnyashchy, Cameroon’s coach, said.
Milla turned a dull match into a one-man show. In the 106th minute, he broke through the Colombian defense, shook off a tackle from Andres Escobar and unleashed a hard shot that sailed over the head of goalkeeper Rene Higuita.
Three minutes later, Higuita recklessly ventured outside the penalty area to help clear the ball. Milla stole it from Higuita, headed for the goal and shot into the empty net.
Milla was hoisted into the air after the final whistle and went off the field a hero. He bowed to the crowd in thanks for their cheers.
″This victory is for my country ... and for all of Africa,″ Milla said.
The surprising Cameroonians will play either Belgium or England in the quarterfinals. The Indomitable Lions were considered as much as 500-1 shots to win the tournament.
Four minutes from the end of overtime, Bernardo Redin set up and finished a give-and-go with Carlos Valderrama for Colombia’s goal. That made Higuita’s mistake even more costly because it came on the deciding goal.
″Humans make errors,″ the often outrageous goalie said. ″I made a mistake but I am not going to stop moving ahead.
″My teammates are not blaming me. They know I know I made an error. I took a chance. I admit my mistakes.″
Few mistakes were made early in the match because few gambles were taken. Both teams were ultraconservative during regulation time.
Things opened up slightly in the overtime - until Milla struck.
″The team which made the most mistakes lost,″ Nepomnyashchy, a Soviet, said.
″I don’t believe this result reflects the total game,″ Colombian coach Francisco Maturana said. ″I believe that we played a good game. ... But Cameroon took advantage of our mistakes.″
Cameroon committed several fouls and four players received yellow cards during the match - Andre Kana Biyik, Akim N’Dip, Emile Mbouh and Jules Onana. All had received yellow cards previously during the tournament and face suspension for the quarterfinals.
″We were already in a similar situation,″ the coach said, referring to Cameroon’s 2-1 victory over Romania, when two players were suspended.
Milla also came off the bench in that game to score both goals.
Colombia was the first Latin American nation eliminated from the tournament. It had advanced along with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The Colombians had finished third in Group D, thanks to a last-minute goal against West Germany.
Cameroon won Group B, ahead of defending World Cup champion Argentina, which the Africans upset 1-0 in the opening game, and Romania.