Ismail Elfath, MLS Referee of the Year in two of the past three seasons, couldn’t help but lend an apologetic smile.
Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar had just scored a 92nd-minute game-winner to help the Indomitable Lions take down mighty Brazil, 1-0, at the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
The only trouble? Aboubakar was already on a yellow card and ripped his shirt off in celebration as he sprinted toward the corner flag.
Aboubakar’s rush of elation left Elfath with no choice. By the rules of the game, he had to brandish a second yellow card for the captain – adding up to a red-card dismissal. Elfath even gave Aboubakar a slight embrace as a sign of respect.
With Friday's result, Cameroon became the first African nation to defeat Brazil at a World Cup. They also snapped Brazil's 17-game unbeaten streak in the group stage, plus earned Cameroon’s first World Cup victory since 2002 – back when legendary striker Samuel Eto'o scored against Saudi Arabia.
But it wasn’t enough to book a knockout round place in Qatar 2022; they finished third in Group G when combined with Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia. Had that Switzerland-Serbia game ended in another result, Cameroon may have gone through on tiebreakers – making Aboubakar’s excitement more understandable.
For MLS purposes, that means Seattle Sounders FC defender Nouhou and Philadelphia Union defender Olivier Mbaizo have an early exit from the World Cup. Nouhou logged three 90-minute games for Cameroon, helping shut out a second-choice Brazil team Friday. Mbaizo was an unused substitute in all three matches.
In Group G's other game, Chicago Fire FC midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri helped Switzerland reach the knockout rounds.
Elfath is part of a sizable Professional Referee Organization contingent who are overseeing matches in Qatar.
Goals (for, against, GD)
3; 1; 2
4; 3; 1
4; 4; 0
5; 8; -3