NAPLES, JULY 1 -- Cameroon played with the same indomitable spirit. The oldest Lion, 38-year-old Roger Milla, roared. But it wasn't enough as England rallied under siege tonight with blood and sweat to advance to the World Cup semifinals and send home the much-loved Lions of Africa.
England came up from the rubble created by Milla, who came off the bench in the second half to set up two goals to give Cameroon a 2-1 come-from-behind lead. But England countered with its indomitable Gary Lineker, the come-to-life top goal-scorer of the 1986 Cup finals.
On the strength of two Lineker penalty kicks, in the 82nd minute and the 105th minute, England prevailed, 3-2, in overtime. Born on Winston Churchill's birthday, Gary Winston Lineker came to England's rescue against a force that left them trembling.
"I thought we were on the plane home tomorrow," said Bobby Robson, England's coach. "The Cameroonians are a little bit unlucky to be out. They have such spirit and will to hang in and fight to the bitter end."
The victory, in what proved to be one of the premier games of this World Cup, put England into a semifinal match Wednesday against powerful West Germany, which also advanced today, with a 1-0 victory over Czechoslovakia. West Germany-England is set for Turin, despite earlier remarks by Turin's mayor that she did not want English fans in the city.
Maria Magnani Noya backed off today from her request to have the semifinal game sites changed to keep the English following in Naples, where order appeared to be kept today by 5,000 Italian police and security forces.
"Certainly we will have to pay great attention to security procedures," Noya said today. Previously, she expressed fear that English "fans would be attacked in retribution for the deaths of 35 local Juventus supporters in the Heysel Stadium disaster five years ago," the riot in Brussels that was touched off by English thugs.
But the semifinal sites will remain as scheduled, which means that on Tuesday night in Naples, Italy will play on the road for the first time, against Argentina, led by Maradona, a hero here with the Napoli club in the Italian league.
It might have been three traditional powers and Cameroon in the semifinals. David Platt, who scored the only goal in England's 1-0 victory over Belgium Tuesday, capitalized on his first start of the finals by scoring tonight in the 25th minute.
Cameroon's lack of depth showed. With four starters not eligible to play because of accumulated fouls, a substitute, Thomas Libiih, allowed Pearce Stuart to turn the corner on him and sent a perfect centering pass to Platt, who scored on a header.
But that was before the oldest Lion made his appearance. There's nothing quite like it in sports when an old warrior reaches back and finds the wherewithal to render a classic performance that defies his years.
The oldest Lion did tonight. Long in tooth at 38, Milla tossed away his sweat shirt at halftime, like a gladiator dropping his cape, and came on to erase the English lead and carry the "Indomitable Lions" of Cameroon surging into the lead -- seemingly on the way to one more upset victory.
Running faster than the younger players around him, Milla broke past the English defense in the 60th minute and was pulled down in desperation by Pearce in the penalty area. Emmanuel Kunde took the penalty shot against 40-year-old goalie Peter Shilton, and just did make it as Shilton made a valiant effort.
Five minutes later, Milla, with a display of dazzling footwork, fed Eugene Ekeke, who shot the ball to his left and into the upper corner of the net as Shilton came out and found himself helpless. It looked like one more Cameroonian surprise was unfolding.
But Robson inserted a fourth attacker and with midfielder Paul Gascoigne pushing the ball hard the English went all out. Milla literally went head to head with England's Mark Wright. Wright's eye was closed, a bandage was wrapped about his head -- he would need seven stitches, but he played on.
With the crowd of 55,205 roaring, the teams traded near goals. Gascoigne set up Platt, but he shot wide to the right. Milla almost set up Francois Omam Biyik, but they just missed connecting. English fans sat silent, sensing doom when Lineker, a classy player, threw everything he had into the fray -- just enough to offset Milla.
He made his mark as a clever goal scorer in Mexico City. At 29, he was the veteran England needed tonight to play back to his '86 form after being slowed in the '88 European Championships by hepatitis. His old self again, Lineker got behind the Cameroon defense and was tripped in the penalty area by Ben Massing. Lineker then beat goalkeeper Thomas N'Kono with the penalty shot to tie the score.
After a rest, during which the old Lions had their legs rubbed by younger ones, two 15-minute periods of extra time ensued -- and the pace proved as quick as regulation. Again, Lineker got free, and closed fast on N'Kono, who interfered with him. Once more, Lineker picked himself up and scored the penalty shot easily.
"You have to admire the way he maintained his calm," Robson said. "It's not that easy to get up when you've been hit like that."
Valeri Nepomniachi, the Soviet coach of the Cameroonians, applauded both teams. "It was a great game," he said. "The teams were matched for each other.
"I think that Cameroon showed that African football is on the right road. Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Nigeria -- they all play at a very high level like Cameroon."
In a rare departing message to writers covering the World Cup, Nepomniachi expressed gratitude "for the sympathy we felt from you . . . which I believe shows the journalists and the world are interested in good football."
Several of the English and Cameroon players exchanged jerseys after the game, many smiling and shaking hands. "After a game like this, it is a bit disappointing," Kunde said. "But we put on a show for the spectators and we're happy they seemed to enjoy it for more than 100 minutes. We showed that African football is making progress."
While Robson had said earlier that tonight's game would be one that England could "cope with," it was Lineker who had warned that "there have been no foregone conclusions in this World Cup as has been shown from the start."
He referred to Cameroon's upset of defending champion Argentina in the opening match, which started the Lions on their World Cup climb. They became the sentimental favorite, taking into tonight's game such wishes as those expressed by the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Football Association, N.E. Gumede, who wrote them: "You have lived up to the words you prophetically aired on the eve of the opening ceremony and we in Zimbabwe and indeed all Africa are proud of your achievements. Metaphorically, you have done what Napoleon could not do."
They proved they could play with traditional soccer powers, and Milla showed what a surge of spirit can produce. The Lions may sleep tonight, but they've been heard from.