Football: Polster averts Cameroon upset

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Cameroon 1

Njanka 77

Austria 1

Polster 90 Att: 33,460

THE POOREST match of the World Cup so far produced the most dramatic finish here last night, the veteran striker Anton Polster earning Austria a point with a typically deadly finish in the second minute of injury- time, the 44th goal of his illustrious international career.

It was a point that Herbert Prohaska's side scarcely merited after defending in numbers for most of the game, and one that had seemed to escape them after Pierre Njanka had put Cameroon in front 15 minutes from the end.

A torrential downpour earlier in the day had given way to a cold, blustery evening more suited to Teesside than Toulouse by the time the teams took the field. The Cameroon contingent in the stands were heavily outnumbered by the Austrians but, as with the Moroccans at Montpellier the previous evening, there was no doubt the neutrals were with the African side in spirit.

Their every touch was greeted with a deafening roar to begin with but as the first half progressed, with neither side finding their World Cup feet, the atmosphere became subdued. Chances were at a premium. Polster and Francois Omam Biyik were both on target with headers that lacked power, Heimo Pfeifenberger headed over from Andreas Herzog's free-kick, while Samuel Ipoua could only direct his headed effort straight at the Austrian goalkeeper, Michael Konsel.

Cameroon came closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval. First, an attempted cross by Didier Angibeaud obliged Konsel to tip the ball clear from under his crossbar, and then a well-struck free-kick by the left wing-back, Pierre Wome, was parried to safety. But bookings for Ipoua and Anton Pfeffer were the only meaningful statistics of a disappointing first period.

The whistles of derision that accompanied the players as they trudged off at half-time turned to booing within minutes of the restart as the exercise in incompetence continued. At least the game opened up a little thereafter, as the desire of both teams not to lose against, supposedly, the weakest opposition in Group B was overcome, presumably, by sheer embarrassment at their efforts.

Dietmar Kuhbauer began to pull a few strings in the Austrian midfield with no immediate effect other than to leave some space for Cameroon which Wome joyfully exploited with a penetrating run and a powerful shot that Konsel turned over the bar.

Austria at last came to life when Polster was brought down on the 18- yard line. He fired a free-kick through the wall but straight at Jacques Songo'o, while Pfeifenberger's drive, a minute later, heading for the top corner, was tipped over by the Cameroon keeper.

With 15 minutes to go, the breakthrough finally came when Njanka escaped down the left wing, skipped past Wolfgang Feiersinger, cut inside Peter Schottel and fired an unstoppable right-foot shot past Konsel.

That seemed to be that, but with time running out an Austrian break produced a corner which Pfeffer met with his head. The ball dropped loose and the 33-year-old Polster, winning his 92nd cap, was the first to react, bringing it under control before lashing it high into the top corner of the net.

CAMEROON (3-5-2): Songo'o (Deportivo La Coruna); Song (Metz), Kalla (Panahaiki), Njanka (Tonnerre Yaounde); Ndo (Cotonsport Garoua), Simo (St Etienne), Mboma (Gamba Osaka), Angibeaud (Nice), Wome (Lucchese); Omam Biyik (Sampdoria), Ipoua (Rapid Vienna). Substitutes: Job (Lyons) for Ipoua, 66; Olembe (Nantes) for Simo, 66; Tchami (Hertha Berlin) for Omam Biyik, 85.

AUSTRIA (3-5-1-1): Konsel (Roma); Schottel (Rapid Vienna), Feiersinger (Borussia Dortmund), Pfeffer (Austria Vienna); Cerny (1860 Munich), Mahlich (Sturm Graz), Kuhbauer (Real Sociedad), Pfeifenberger (Werder Bremen), Wetl (Rapid Vienna); Herzog (Werder Bremen); Polster (Cologne). Substitutes: Vastic (Sturm Graz) for Herzog, 83; Stoger (Linz ASK) for Pfeifenberger, 83; Haas (Sturm Graz) for Cerny, 83.

Referee: E Gonzalez Chavez (Paraguay).