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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Cameroon hold England
England's Owen Hargreaves tackles back
England 2-2 Cameroon

England's World Cup preparations ended in stalemate as Cameroon emphasised the African threat in impressive style in Kobe.

Sven-Goran Eriksson was grateful for substitute Robbie Fowler's late equaliser after a performance that left more questions than answers.

But at least Eriksson will be relieved that he suffered no more injuries, with the opener against Sweden on the horizon.

Geremi's brilliant free-kick gave the Indomitable Lions the chance to become the first African side to beat England.

Match facts
5 mins: Eto'o fires Cameroon ahead
13 mins: Vassell levels for England
57 mins: Geremi scores with a fine free-kick
90 mins: Fowler's last-gasp leveller
But Fowler's leveller with virtually the last touch of a low-key encounter salvaged England's pride.

Cameroon took an early lead through Samuel Eto'o, but Aston Villa's Darius Vassell gave Eriksson a timely lift with another demonstration of his swift adjustment to international football with a quick equaliser.

England struggled to make an impact on a Cameroon side that mixed silk and steel to great effect.

Eriksson will have been concerned in particular about England's uncertainty at the back.

The coach was again forced to reshuffle his starting line-up as injuries cast an increasing shadow over his World Cup countdown.

Joe Cole started in central midfield, with Manchester United's Wes Brown handed an opportunity to stake his claim for the right-back spot.

England's re-shaped side were still in the early period of adjustment when Cameroon took the lead after four minutes.

Open Quote
We saw some good things and we also saw some things we must do better in the World Cup
Close Quote
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson

It was a goal that will have posted a warning to watching Mick McCarthy, whose Republic of Ireland side face Cameroon in the group stages.

Patrick Mboma's raking pass caught out Brown on England's right flank, and when Pierre Wome's cross rebounded off the post, Eto'o slammed a powerful finish past Nigel Martyn.

England's Joe Cole skips over a challenge
England's Joe Cole skips over a challenge
England's response was swift and decisive - and Vassell continued the goal-laden start to his international career with the equaliser seven minutes later.

Paul Scholes, as against South Korea, played a key role as creator with a through ball which Vassell controlled before steering past Boukar Alioum.

England captain Michael Owen thought he had put his side in front when he bundled home from close range after Cameroon keeper Alioum fumbled Heskey's header, but he was ruled offside.

Cameroon looked slicker in their approach work and stronger physically than England, worrying factors for Eriksson with the opener against Sweden a week away.

Open Quote
Darius Vassell and Michael Owen have both scored over here - but I'm not a bad player myself and this I could do a job
Close Quote
England's Robbie Fowler

Real Madrid star Geremi was narrowly off target with a trademark long range free-kick on the stroke of half-time - but it was only a brief reprieve for England.

Eriksson made the usual host of interval changes, and the fresh faces were left chasing the game when Cameroon restored their advantage after 57 minutes.

Subsititute Gareth Southgate was penalised for handball under challenge from Mboma, and this time Geremi made no mistake with a 25-yard right-foot free-kick that flashed past replacement goalkeper David James.

England almost equalised after 73 minutes but Trevor Sinclair - back in the side after his latest flight from England - had a goalbound header brilliantly saved by Alioum.

Wes Brown celebrates with scorer Darius Vassell
Brown celebrates with scorer Vassell
Eriksson immediately replaced Vassell with Leeds United striker Fowler, who was desperate for action after recovering from a hip injury.

And he almost announced his arrival with an immediate goal - but he was inches away from a decisive touch when Teddy Sheringham headed Sinclair's excellent cross across the face of goal.

Fowler had better luck with a close-range header in the dying seconds - again from a Sheringham header - to at least save England from the disappointment of defeat.


England: Martyn (James 46), Brown, Ferdinand (Keown 46), Campbell (Southgate 46), Bridge, Hargreaves, Scholes (Mills 46), Joe Cole, Heskey (Sinclair 46), Vassell (Fowler 76), Owen (Sheringham 46).

Cameroon: Alioum (Songo'o 78), Song (Ndo 69), Kalla (Mettomo 56), Tchato, Geremi (Alnoudji 66), Wome (Njanka 61), Lauren (Suffo 60), Foe (Djemba-Djemba 53), Olembe (Kome 53), Eto'o (Epalle 60), Mboma (N'Diefi 66).

Subs Not Used: Job, Kameni, N'kom.

Referee: Y Katayama (Japan)

Att: 42,000

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
"Vassell and Hargreaves are doing very well"
England captain Michael Owen
"We are eager to play the first game"
Cameroon defender Lauren
"We believe in our strength"
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