Feisty Cameroon hold Germany

STALEMATE::Germany coach Joachim Loew said his side being rusty was ‘normal’ after 10 days of training, while counterpart Volker Finke said the 2-2 draw was bolstering

Reuters, MOENCHENGLADBACH and Berlin, Germany

Tue, Jun 03, 2014 - Page 19

FIFA World Cup contenders Germany came from a goal down to draw 2-2 with hard-working Cameroon on Sunday in their penultimate game before this month’s tournament in Brazil, showing that they still have work to do to fine-tune their title challenge.

Germany who are to play Armenia on Friday in their final warm-up, looked some way off top form as they seek to end an 18-year trophy drought, missing several key players, including Bayern Munich teammates captain Philipp Lahm and first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said the game highlighted the work they need to do.

“This was a good opponent, a tough test against strong, physical players,” Loew said at Borussia-Park in Moenchengladbach, Germany. “One could see that we lacked a bit of freshness, but that’s normal after our 10-day training camp, but we have seen that there are things we still need to do, that’s clear.”

Germany are to travel to Brazil with only one out-and-out striker after Loew yesterday cut Kevin Volland from his final 23-man squad.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim forward Volland joined defender Shkodran Mustafi and leftback Marcel Schmelzer, still nursing a knee injury, as the three players left out of the final squad after being included in a provisional selection for the camp in Italy.

Volland’s exclusion came as a surprise given the striker’s physical strength and all-round play, seen as a good alternative to veteran forward Miroslav Klose, 35.

Loew did pick Borussia Dortmund’s Erik Durm, who can play as leftback, after he won his first cap on Sunday, as well as Neuer and Lahm, who are racing to get fit.

Cameroon’s German coach Volker Finke was satisfied with his team’s performance on Sunday, saying that eight or nine players from the game would be starting in their World Cup opener against Mexico.

“There are still things to improve, but the result was very good for our confidence,” Finke said.

Finke also said he was happy to see striker Samuel Eto’o, who tapped in for the lead, perform well despite a knee problem.

Loew’s side almost got off to a perfect start when seconds after the kickoff, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil was left completely unmarked in front of goal, but somehow managed to shoot wide.

Germany, who face Ghana, the US and Portugal in Group G later this month, came close again as Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Mario Goetze — playing as a lone striker — sent in a low drive which was turned on to the post by Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje.

Cameroon, who are to play hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico in Group A, had trouble containing their rivals’ pace down the wings and needed to wait about 20 minutes before Eto’o shot on target.

However, a series of tough tackles threw the hosts off balance and gave the visitors the initiative.

Germany ’keeper Roman Weidenfeller was called into action late in the first half, making a superb save in the 39th when Eto’o sent Benjamin Moukandjo clear and also blocked a Joel Matip effort.

Cameroon stunned Germany in the 62nd minute when Eto’o’s shot was saved by Weidenfeller, but the forward was in the right place to tap in a subsequent cross.

Yet their joy was short-lived, with Thomas Mueller charging into the box to head in a Jerome Boateng cross four minutes later and Andre Schuerrle tapping in after a surging run by substitute Lukas Podolski of Arsenal.

Yet Cameroon refused to lie down and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting confirmed his outstanding form this season with FSV Mainz 05, picking up the ball outside the box and drilling an unstoppable left-foot shot past Weidenfeller in the 78th.