Mark Milligan’s penalty cancelled out Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s first-half finish in St Petersburg, where the Socceroos put in a more composed performance but lacked spark.
Ange Postecoglou’s men now head to Moscow with the almighty goal of upsetting the South American champions and tournament favourites, who drew 1-1 with Germany later last night.
Once again, the Socceroos failed to produce a full 90-minute performance to be proud of.
While Australia had the better of possession, Cameroon won more of the battles – and the shot count 19 to five.
Postecoglou rued a “little lapse” for Cameroon’s opener, seeing merit in the more composed showing even if they failed to fire up front.
“We worked our way into the game really well and controlled large parts (but) we lacked a little bit of composure in the final third to get some meaningful chances,” he said.
“Credit to the players. They worked their hearts out.
“We pressed on and we got the goal I thought we deserved.”
The Socceroos started more confidently than their horror show against Germany.
However their ascendancy faded, leaving only Cameroon playing with the urgency that the do-or-die match required.
Impressive youngster Christian Bassogog enjoyed a couple of early shots on goal, ruthlessly exposing Milos Degenek’s lack of pace with one run.
The Socceroos defender was found wanting for the opener, when Zambo Anguissa beat him to a long ball and dinked an effort over rushing goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
It was no less than Cameroon deserved going into the break but Australia picked up the pace in the second half.
Mat Leckie sent a pair of dangerous balls into the box but they were wasted by Tomi Juric and Tom Rogic.
The match swung again and on 57 minutes, the Socceroos rode their luck.
Vincent Aboubakar sent a shot through Zambo Anguissa’s legs a metre out from goal with Ryan beaten, but it went just wide.
The action then swung the other way when a driving run from Gersbach brought Milligan to the spot.
The impressive 20-year-old was brashly tackled in the box by Ernest Mabouka and the Australian skipper converted.
Postecoglou threw on James Troisi, Tim Cahill and Jackson Irvine in search of a winner but it didn’t come.
Cameroon boss Hugo Broos saw injustice in the result, pointing to the shots-at-goal count.
“The statistic says everything about the game. I think we should have always have won the game,” he said.
“On the 90 minutes we were the better team, we had the better chances.”
Cameroon’s fate is the same as Australia’s. The Indomitable Lions need to beat Germany by two goals on Sunday to make it through to the last four.
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