2022 World Cup 'Moment of the Day': Aboubakar's physics-defying goal in Cameroon's thrilling comeback

Vincent Aboubakar scores Cameroon's second goal of the game during their 3-3 draw against Serbia in a Group G match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

The 2022 World Cup has gotten off to a cracking start. The goals are great, the results are unpredictable and the matches have been fun. With so much happening every day, ESPN India attempts to pick out the one magical moment that defined the day's action.

For day 9, we pick Vincent Aboubakar's physics-defying effort against Serbia.

For a moment there, it really was the theatre of the absurd.

To the soundtrack of the world feed co-commentator saying "Ah, he's clearly offside," Vincent Aboubakar ran onto a long ball and bore down on goal. From where we were seeing it, you could see why he had said what he said - acres of green grass and just Aboubakar and the Serbian goalkeeper, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic in-frame. Surely the man was a mile off. In the age of VAR, though, flags are kept down and motions are gone through, to the end. And so it was here.

Nemanja Maksimovic, chasing hard, closed in on Aboubakar as the forward waited for the ball to bounce a couple of times before taking a touch to steady himself. His next move was to feint a shot, without touching the ball and Maksimovic flew past, knees sliding along the grass, face twisted in that cartoon-villain-having-been-completely-outfoxed expression. You could almost hear the scream "AAAAaaaaaaa...." the volume decreasing as he slid past Aboubakar like a train that had desperately overshot its station.

Still looking down, Aboubakar took a couple of steps to steady himself, just as Milinkovic-Savic came screaming out. The thing to remember here is that Milinkovic-Savic is massive. Not just massive in you-and-me standards, but massive in giant-Serbian-football-team standards. Seeing him come charging at you -- at six foot nine, with that bald head and glorious beard - must be like seeing a live-action Kratos come at you. Terrifying. Aboubakar, though, calmly scooped the ball a ridiculously high way up into the air just in front of the Serbian Kratos. Not those delicate little chips that you see strikers employ, the ball teasingly drifting out of reach of the sprawling keeper. Oh, no. He sent this into orbit, straight up. The logic was evident: even if you're nearly 7 foot tall, you aren't going to touch a ball that goes 20 odd feet in the air.

Deliciously, physics-defyingly, the ball dropped just in front of the goal before bouncing into the roof of the goal. That last bit -- the roof bulging and the net rippling -- underlined just how remarkable a trajectory the ball had taken.

And it wasn't over. The linesman raised his flag as soon as the ball crossed the goal-line, Milinkovic-Savic casually picked the ball out of the net, Maksimovic (having found his station, finally) gave the linesman a relieved, no-look, thumbs-up and Aboubakar turned immediately and walked away, pursing his lips and shaking his head, barely admiring what he had done. Of course, he was offside, wasn't he?

Except he wasn't. Look at this image, it was that tight:

VAR confirmed it, a smile crept onto Aboubakar's face, a quick jig (remember Ronaldinho's thumb-and-little-finger-out fist shake? That.), an A with both hands (his trademark) and that was it. Curtains pulled down on a piece of magnificent absurdist theatre, played out at the greatest stage of them all.

Would he have attempted it if he had not thought he was off? You can't be sure. This is, after all, a man who once said he can do whatever Mohamed Salah does and that he doesn't really "give a toss if people don't like it." He's not exactly suffering from a lack of self-confidence.

Does it really matter? Absolutely not.

You see, as great as the goal was a standalone piece, the placement of it in the overall narrative of the game made it even better.

Aboubakar had started on the bench, a place he had been relegated to for most of new coach Rigobert Song's short tenure (despite winning the AFCON golden boot months previously). He had sat and watched as Cameroon went 1-0 up and then collapsed to 3-1 down. If the score had remained that, Cameroon were out of Qatar 2022.

He came on in the 55th minute, Song finally giving a substantial run-out to the pairing of Aboubakar and the in-form Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The move changed the game. For eight minutes, Cameroon dominated Serbia completely. Then came this goal-of-the-World-Cup contender. Three minutes after that, he would do brilliantly to set up Choupo-Moting for a tap-in. 1-3 down to 3-3 in the blink of an eye.

To celebrate the equaliser, Aboubakar would lift the goalscorer (the man who had effectively replaced him in the starting XI) on his back and run towards the coaching staff. A heart-warming display of team-spirit made even more significant by the drama around the camp. The score would remain 3-3, Cameroon still alive and fighting in the tournament.

Aboubakar now has 34 goals for his nation: moving clear as the third highest scoring Cameroonian of all time, behind only the legends that are Roger Milla and Samuel Eto'o. The 34th arguably the greatest of them all.