Cameroon became the first African country to lose at the ongoing Fifa Under-17 World Cup after falling 1-0 to Tajikistan at Estadio Kleber Jose de Andrade in Cariacica, Brazil on Monday.
A 51st-minute penalty by Sharifbek Rakhmatov condemned Cameroon to defeat after Angola, Nigeria and Senegal won their respective opening matches.
Even a numerical disadvantage which saw Tajikistan play the final 17 minutes with 10 players could not aid Cameroon to make a successful comeback after Shukhrat Elmurodov was red-carded.
The African champions had started the match brightly with Ismaila Seidou, Leonel Wamba Djouffo and Steve Mvoue forcing saves from Tajikistan goalkeeper Shohrukh Qirghizboev inside the first six minutes.
The Asians rarely troubled Cameroon in the first half with the closest they came to a goal was when Rakhmatov twice shot wide.
On top of the impressive Qirghizboev saving from Samuel Nongoh and Wamba Djouffo – who was also denied by the crossbar – some resolute defending by Tajikistan also kept Seidou and Mvoue at bay in the opening 45 minutes.
The game’s defining moment came six minutes after the interval when Rakhmatov slotted home from the penalty spot following Cameroon goalkeeper Manfred Ekoi’s foul on substitute Rustam Soirov inside the box.
Thereafter Tajikistan’s defenders continued with their steely show, blocking Mvoue and Wamba Djouffo’s shots inside the box as Cameroon pressed.
In the midst of Cameroon’s relentless attacking, Soirov nearly got a double but had a goal overturned by the video assistant referee on 65 minutes.
Cameroon was handed a numerical advantage when Tajikistan midfielder Elmurodov was shown a second yellow card in the 73rd minute for fouling Daouda Amadou.
Substitute Nassourou Ben Hamed Ndongo, who came on for Amadou, became the real threat for Tajikistan’s defenders but found the Asians’ defence was unyielding.
Even some nine-minute stoppage time was not enough for Cameroon to hit back and they now look to recover in their next match against Argentina on Friday.