Eto'o value soars as slick hat-trick sparks Cameroon

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The Independent Football

Reports on Friday emanating from Spain suggested Chelsea were preparing a £45 million bid for Samuel Eto'o. After his hat-trick here in Cameroon's opening game, Roman Abramovich may have to dig even a little deeper if he is to prise the striker from Barcelona this summer. He may even want to move quicker than that for the two clubs play each other next month in the Champions' League and on this form the Catalans will be short odds to progress.

Against Angola, Eto'o scored two goals before half-time, in the space of 19 minutes, and he clearly had his eye on a third. His first two came from a free-kick and with a header, while his third was a thumping right-footed drive from 25 yards with 13 minutes remaining. It meant he was the difference in the 3-1 success.

If asked at the end of the game to pick which team would be playing in the World Cup this summer you would have had no option but to plump for Cameroon, not Angola. However, you would have been wrong. Last year, a missed penalty at the end of their final qualifier meant Cameroon would miss out on the fun in Germany. Playing in a different qualifying group, Angola pipped Nigeria to reach their first World Cup, but on this evidence the team nicknamed the Black Antelopes will have a tough time.

The tournament this summer will be all the poorer for Eto'o's absence. He proved that after 20 minutes, when he curled a free-kick into the top right-hand corner to give the Indomitable Lions the lead, an advantage which was cancelled out nine minutes later when Angola's Flavio Amado scored from the penalty spot.

The Eto'o show continued six minutes before the break. He was well supported on the flanks throughout and from the right Roudolphe Douala hit an accurate cross that the 24-year-old striker headed home before he sealed victory in the second half.

Didier Drogba and his Ivory Coast team-mates will also be making their World Cup debut in 20 weeks, when they take on Argentina. As a warm-up for that auspicious day, this Nations Cup serves a very useful purpose, although on their showing yesterday, in the International Stadium against Morocco, they may wish they had rather longer to prepare before facing the South Americans.

Drogba, the Elephants captain, scored his team's only goal in a laboured performance. He was then taken off three-quarters of the way through the game, without appearing to be injured.

Seven minutes before the break, the Chelsea striker was put through on goal. Morocco's Hoalid Regragui brushed into him on the edge of the area and, although it looked accidental, a a penalty was awarded which Drogba duly converted.

There was something of a surprise in the last game of the day when Togo, themselves World Cup debutants in five months, lost to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DR Congo captain, Portsmouth's Lomano LuaLua, scored after Tresor Mputi had given them the lead on the stroke of half-time. It was a bad day for Arsenal's new signing Emmanuel Adebayor in his first competitive game since signing for the Gunners 10 days ago. The £7m striker started on the Togo bench because of stomach problems and could only manage an ineffective half an hour.

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