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In an unusual admission, Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said he was “proud” of the player who consigned his side to a 1-0 defeat in their opening game of Group G at the World Cup.
Switzerland’s Breel Embolo scored an emotional goal against the country of his birth in the 48th minute of a tight game and, in a mark of respect, declined to celebrate.
Song was seen speaking to Embolo after the game at the Al Janoub Stadium and said he offered his congratulations.
“We know each other, he is my little brother,” Song said.
“We often speak to each other on the phone and I wanted to congratulate him. It is fair play to do so. Just because we are on different teams, it does not mean we are not still brothers.”
Song added that despite the result, he was pleased that Monaco forward Embolo had scored a goal at the World Cup.
“He did not celebrate his goal, but this is all part of football,” said the 47-year-old, who was appointed by the Indomitable Lions earlier this year.
“I’m happy for him and proud of him. He is with the Swiss national team and I would have liked him to be on my side, but that is the way of life.”
Embolo, 25, was born in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde before moving to Europe at the age of six and he received Swiss citizenship in 2014.
“For us the most important thing is how did we play on the pitch [and] what could we have done better, rather than worrying who was scoring goals against us.” said former Liverpool defender Song.
Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer said he was thankful that Embolo was wearing Swiss colours, praising the forward for always being there when needed.
“I am very happy that he is playing for us,” Sommer said. “That’s why we won today.” he said.
The Indomitable Lions, who are ranked 43rd in the world, had the better of the first half and created chances but they failed to find the same spark in the second half.
Only a last-ditch intervention from Andre-Frank Zambo-Anguissa denied Embolo a second goal and Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana, making his World Cup debut, made a terrific save to keep out Ruben Vargas.
Cameroon, who qualified for the tournament with a dramatic late win over Algeria on away goals, have now lost eight World Cup games in a row.
That unwanted run goes back to the 2002 edition in Japan and South Korea, and is only one game shy of equalling the record of nine consecutive defeats held by Mexico.
Song said his team’s low ranking meant nothing coming into the tournament, but Cameroon’s eighth World Cup finals appearance risks being another brief one with games against Serbia and five-time winners Brazil to come.
“It’s a feeling of disappointment. We wanted more but football at this level is decided by small details,” said Song.
“There was a brief let-up and we conceded a goal. But we know everything is still possible. We still have two games to play and we know we have no more room for error.”
Cameroon’s next Group G game is against Serbia on Monday (10:00 GMT).
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