WORLD CUP '90 : English Are Confident Despite Their Injuries : Quarterfinals: Cameroon appears to be in even deeper trouble because of suspensions of four of its starters.


English striker Gary Lineker, the top scorer in the 1986 tournament in Mexico, has only one goal in this World Cup and is hobbled by an injured toe.

Winger John Barnes, England's player of the year, has a strained groin muscle. Defender Des Walker has injuries to both his left calf and ankle. Defender Paul Parker is nursing a shin injury.

So why is England Coach Bobby Robson so confident that tonight's quarterfinal match at San Paolo Stadium is nothing more than a formality on the road to the semifinals?

Because, unlike 1986, when England lost to Argentina in the quarterfinals, tonight's opponent is Cameroon, a team whose Siberian coach, Valery Nepomnyachy, has more than a few problems of his own.

Nepomnyachy has lost four of his 11 starters to suspension. Making matters worse, Roger Milla, the scorer of four of Cameroon's five goals in the World Cup, injured his right shoulder in training Thursday.

"I still feel stiff down my right side," Milla, 38, said, "but I'll be able to play."

Nepomnyachy said earlier that the bench was not Cameroon's strong suit and that it would be difficult to replace the missing starters.

"We must not let England play as it wants to. We must impose our game, at our pace," he said. "It's important to wait until they (the English players) make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes during a match.

"I usually say my team has a 50-50 chance of winning, but it has a 40-60 chance against England."

Robson, meanwhile, talked about "a wave of optimism" in the English camp, a belief that both the injuries and Cameroon can be overcome.

Lineker, however, remains cautious.

"There are no foregone conclusions in this World Cup," he said. "That's been shown from day one."

That, of course, was when Cameroon upset Argentina, the reigning world champion. Already, Cameroon has done better than any previous African team in the World Cup.

En route to the quarterfinals, Cameroon defeated Argentina, Romania and Colombia and lost to the Soviet Union. It has scored five goals and given up six. England, by contrast, tied Ireland and the Netherlands and defeated Egypt and Belgium. It has scored three goals and given up only one.

Apart from Milla, who is unlikely to start but will come off the bench when needed, Cameroon's most dangerous player is Omam Biyik, whose speed could cause the English defense problems. England has struggled to find the net in this tournament and the player charged with creating the openings, midfielder Paul Gascoigne, has been inconsistent. He has also received a yellow card, meaning that one more will knock him out of the semifinal should England advance.

Two other English players, winger Peter Beardsley and midfielder Steve McMahon, face a similar situation. For Cameroon, Milla and goalkeeper Thomas Nkono have yellow cards.

On the English hooligan front, meanwhile, Naples has taken several steps to cope with any potential problems. The sale of alcohol has been banned from 3 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Monday, not just in the city but throughout the surrounding province.

In addition, 2,000 police and soldiers will be on duty at the stadium tonight and another 3,000 throughout the city, especially at such gathering spots as Capodichino Airport, the four railways stations and the ferry port.

Fans of Napoli, the Italian League champion, have said they would welcome true English supporters and accompany them to the stadium, and police have supported the idea.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World