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Surprise newcomers Cameroon in last 16

Cameroon's Gaelle Enganamouit (L) and Switzerland's Rachel Rinast vie for the ball during the first half of their FIFA Women's World Cup group C match at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada . PHOTO/AFP
Cameroon’s Gaelle Enganamouit (L) and Switzerland’s Rachel Rinast vie for the ball during the first half of their FIFA Women’s World Cup group C match at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada . PHOTO/AFP

WINNIPEG, June 17- Surprise African newcomers Cameroon joined reigning champions Japan in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday after beating Switzerland 2-1 in their final Group C game.

Olympic silver medallists Japan beat Ecuador 1-0 to finish top of Group C with nine points, with Cameroon taking the second automatic spot for the knockout round with six. Switzerland have three points with Ecuador on the way home with none.

Yuki Ogimi scored after just five minutes in Winnipeg as the Japanese, who were already through after their second group match, closed down the game early.

Coach Norio Sasaki used the opportunity to give players who had not featured before game time as they prepare for their next match against the best third-place finisher from Group A, B or F in Vancouver next Tuesday.

“It was good to score early tonight, we should have scored more but we weren’t able to. They were very persistent in their defence,” said Sasaki.

“I’m happy that everyone was able to stand out on the pitch. Some were very nervous, they weren’t able to play the way they should, but it’s important that the players have the experience.

“Now that everyone has been on the pitch I’ll examine their performances.”

Ecuador coach Vanessa Arauz said her 48th-ranked side leave the World Cup with their heads held high, after two heavy defeats — a 6-0 rout by Cameroon and a 10-1 thrashing by Switzerland.

“It was an honour for us to play them. It’s our first time being here and obviously we don’t have a high competitive level,” she said.

“Despite the two previous routs we suffered, we showed why we deserved to be here.”

– Carrying colours of Africa –

In Edmonton, Cameroon came from behind to beat Switzerland, who had taken the lead when Ana Maria Crnogorcevic scored after 24 minutes.

But Cameroon were transformed after the break.

Goals from Gabrielle Onguene after 47 minutes and a powerful header from substitute Madeleine Ngono Mani on 62 sealed all three points for the 53rd-ranked side.

It is only the second time that an African side have made it out of the group stage after Nigeria in 1999.

“We came here to create a surprise, to do better than 2012 (Olympics). We’ve achieved our objective by reaching the last 16,” sand Onguene.

“We want to continue surprising now.”

Coach Enow Ngachu said his side had learned a lot from the London Games which was their first major tournament despite being eliminated in the group phase.

“Compared to Nigeria, Cameroon are a small team, we’re not just representing Cameroon but carrying the colours of Africa,” he added.

As second-placed finishers in Group C Cameroon next play Group A runners-up China in Edmonton on Saturday.

With three points, Switzerland, ranked 19, could still qualify as one of the four best third-place finisher across the six groups.

“After the first half a certain insecurity set in, they (Cameroon) got that goal and it changed the situation entirely,” lamented Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.

“We can say it was a deserved victory from Cameroon in the end.”