DOHA, Qatar (abc) After failing to score and losing their opening games, both Cameroon and Serbia need their strikers on target when they meet Monday at the World Cup.
“The highest level is unforgiving,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said after his team’s opening 1-0 loss to Switzerland. “We no longer have any room for error and we’ll be going for broke.”
Serbia has a fine finisher in Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic, but he has only just shaken off a groin injury. If he starts, coach Dragan Stojkovic would ideally pair him with Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Mitrovic has 50 goals for Serbia and his last-minute header against Portugal in Lisbon last year sent the Serbs to Qatar and put the Portuguese into a playoff. He started the 2-0 loss to Brazil but looked jaded, as did Vlahovic when he came on.
Stojkovic is hopeful Juventus left winger Filip Kostic will be fit to start. If he is, and the front three is backed up by standout Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, it could be a busy afternoon for Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana, who also plays in Italy’s Serie A for Inter Milan.
Cameroon also is likely to have a three-man attack with Bryan Mbeumo on the right of striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi on his left. Toko Ekambi scored five goals at last year’s African Cup of Nations as Cameroon reached the semifinals.
The 33-year-old Choupo-Moting has enjoyed a renaissance with Bayern Munich since Robert Lewandowksi left to join Barcelona, netting 11 times in 16 games. Song will hope he gets his 20th international goal at Al Janoub Stadium.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa has been a revelation in midfield for Italian league leader Napoli this season. He will be key to shutting down Milinkovic-Savic, who should drop into a deeper role if Serbia starts with two strikers.
A defeat knocks Serbia out if Brazil fails to win against Switzerland in the other Group G encounter, while a loss would eliminate Cameroon if the Swiss don’t win.
Meanwhile, the Serbian soccer federation was charged by FIFA on Saturday for hanging a political banner about neighboring independent state Kosovo in the locker room before playing Brazil at the World Cup.