Sunday, April 04, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Cameroon-Russia (1994)

The match between Russia and Cameroon in the first round of the 1994 was completely irrelevant for both teams. Russia had lost their previous two matches 2-0 and 3-1 to Brazil and Sweden respectively, while Cameroon had tied Sweden 2-2 and lost 3-0 to Brazil. This meant that while Cameroon had a small theoretical chance of progressing, Russia was out. With Brazil and Sweden tying 1-1, the match was nevertheless irrelevant.
Still, the match in Stanford, California, is worth mentioning since two incredible records in world cup history were made in the same match.
After 15 minutes Oleg Salenko, striker from the CD Logroñés in Spain, opened the scoring for Russia, and by half-time, the same player had made a hat-trick by scoring two more goals (one of them on penalty). Cameroon, an ageing team that had been the sensation of the 1990 World Cup where they made it all the way to the quarterfinals, was being humiliated, and the saviour from the 1990 World Cup entered the pitch, the 42 year old Roger Milla.
Roger Milla had played some years in France during the 1980s and in 1976 had been awarded the African Footballer of the year award, but his career came came to the wider world’s attention in 1990 when, at the age of 38, he had controversially been selected for the world cup squad after Cameroon’s president had put pressure on the coach. Entering against Colombia in the last-16, he had scored the winning goal, and had been instrumental in Cameroon’s 2-1 lead against England in the 1990 quarter-finals. Then, Milla had been the oldest player to score in a World Cup. As he entered the pitch against Russia, it was only one minute before he beat his own record when scoring as he strongly held off a Russian defender in the penalty area and placed the ball in the goal.
Roger Milla’s record as the oldest man to score in a world cup is unlikely ever to be beaten.
However, this was not the first record to be broken. Cameroun was unable to score again, and instead Russia, and notably Oleg Salenko, proceeded to tame and destroy the African lions. Halfway through the second half Oleg Salenko scored his fourth goal on a comfortable right-foot shot after a quick Russian attack.
Only eight players before Salenko had ever achieved the feat of scoring four goals in a world cup match, the last being Emilio Butragueño in 1986, when Spain defeated Denmark. However, no player had ever scored five goals in one world cup match, and this was exactly what Oleg Salenko achieved only three minutes later, when he scored a fifth for Russia on a quick attack that tore apart the tired African defense. To this day Oleg Salenko remains the only player that has scored five goals in one world cup match.
Dmitri Radchenko from Zenit Leningrad scored a sixth for Russia before the end of the match, but that is only an anecdote in a match that had already seen two world cup records.
Roger Milla played his last world cup match in this match, as Cameroon returned home. He is still a legend in Cameroon, and widely considered one of the best players Africa has ever produced;
Oleg Salenko only played eight matches for Russia, and his club career was not prominent in spite of his talent, playing for Valencia, Glasgow Rangers, Istanbulspor, Córdoba and Pogon Szczecin with mixed success. In spite of this, he remains in the history books because of his record in this match, and including the goal he had scored against Sweden, he became top-scorer of the tournament together with Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoitchkov.

Match Stats:
  • 28th June 1994, Stanford Stadium, Stanford
  • Attendance: 75,000
  • Referee: Jamal Al Sharif (Syria)
Russia-Cameroon 6-1
Goals: 1-0 Salenko (15), 2-0 Salenko (41), 3-0 Salenko (44) (pen), 3-1 Milla (46), 4-1 Salenko (72), 5-1 Salenko (75), 6-1 Radchenko (81)


Russia: Cherchesov; Nikiforov, Ternavski, Tetradze, Korneev (Radchenko), Tsymbalar, Onopko, Lediakhov (Beschastnykh), Salenko, Karpin, Khlestov
Cameroon: Songo; Kana, Ndip, Libiih, Omam-Biyik, Mfede (Milla), Kalla, Tataw, Agbo, Foe, Embe (Tchami)


Charlie de Wirtz said...

Hi Eric,

Interesting blog! The World Cup is so great. I've done a blog about it: Have a look at it when you have time and contact me if you can. Maybe we could exchange links? Kind regards, Charlie

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Unknown said...

Actually, the game was NOT irrelevant. If Bulgaria had lost against Argentina and Russia had won by a great margin, Russia would have gone through as one of the best 3rd-spot teams.

A curious fact - Cameroon's coach was Russian ;)

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