Cameroon muscle their way into semi-finals

TAMALE, Ghana Tue Feb 5, 2008 7:35pm GMT

1 of 5. Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon (L) is challenged by Joahar Mnari of Tunisia during their quarter-final match at the African Nations Cup soccer tournament in Tamale, February 4, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

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TAMALE, Ghana (Reuters) - Cameroon have muscled their way to the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup, using raw physical power to knock opponents out of their stride.

Tunisia, themselves not afraid to put themselves about, were almost literally pushed aside as Cameroon won Monday's quarter-final 3-2 after extra time.

Under German coach Otto Pfister, the new-look Indomitable Lions have removed any hint of finesse from their game and instead serve up a mix of hoofed clearances upfield and crunching tackles, often played on the limits of the law.

The defence's response to the slightest sign of danger is to kick the ball as far and high as possible and several clearances in Monday's game threatened to go out of the stadium.

The midfield is usually by-passed altogether in favour of long balls forward looking to exploit the talents of forward Samuel Eto'o.

Right back Geremi and midfielder Alexandre Song showed some occasional touches of class amid the mayhem but they appeared to be swimming against the tide.

The tackling was ferocious and stricter referees may have felt that late, lunging tackles from Mohamadou Idrissou and Timothee Atouba both merited red cards.

Pfister, 70, said he was simply letting his players get on with it.

"I prefer to win 3-2 or 5-4 to just winning 1-0," he said. "You can't hold African players back by tying them to a tactical scheme."

Tunisia admitted they had been literally overpowered.

"Cameroon's physical strength is amazing," said midfielder Mehdi Nafti.

Coach Roger Lemerre said: "It's not easy to play a team like Cameroon, they are physically very strong."

"There were two different teams, one with quality and one with speed. But the physical preparation of our opponents meant that they won."

Cameroon's style has proved effective.

Pfister's outfit have scored 13 goals in four games at the Nations Cup and, after falling at the quarter-finals in the last two tournaments as well as missing out on the 2006 World Cup, they are back among the African elite.

They could, however, find their style cramped at a World Cup, where referees are likely to be far less lenient.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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