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World Cup 2022

Group G

by Elliot Fern 10 Nov 2022

Brazil have now gone 4 tournaments without winning the World Cup. Not even making the final. But their team looks as strong as it has done since 2002. World class players all over the pitch from Alisson/Ederson to Casemiro and Neymar. Serbia will be doing their best to thwart them in the group with a forward line that can cause serious trouble - Vlahovic & Mitrovic.

Switzerland and Serbia have history and their rivalry will be renewed once again. Cameroon will be looking to surprise their Group G rivals via Aboubakar, Ekambi and Onan all able to produce world class performances.



No World Cup is complete without Brazil. A generation hasn’t seen them lift the big one. Can they reclaim their crown?

Brazil and the World Cup go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Brazil are the most successful side in the competition winning it 5 times since its inception and have made every single tournament without fail but the last time they lifted the famous trophy was back in 2002 with Ronaldo (the original), Ronaldinho, Cafu, Dunga and Roberto Carlos. Iconic names and frightening to face, as England’s David Seaman will attest to. 20 years is a long time in football terms though and Brazil have been knocked out by European foes each time; the last 4 champions have come from the same continent to add insult to injury.

But things may be different this time. And they have good reason to this time believe it. They are no longer hedging their bets solely on Neymar. There are strong players all over the pitch, Vincius Junior, Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus up front (the latter wasn’t even called up to the latest squad!), Martinelli, Fabinho and Casemiro in midfield and then stalwarts Marquinhos and Thiago Silva in central defence, Juventus full-backs Danilo and Sandro completing the ensemble. Even in goal, they have arguably 2 of the best goalkeepers around in Ederson and Alisson, the former could probably play in midfield himself.

Brazil are starting to look like their hugely entertaining but also intimidating selves again. And that is a frightening prospect for Europe’s top sides. Former winner Kaka is bullish about Brazil and even Argentina’s chances but admits the birth of the Nations League is preventing them playing top tier matches against European foes. France’s Mbappe believes European sides have the upper hand because "Argentina and Brazil don't have that level of competition in South America, the football is not as developed as in Europe, that is why most recent World Cup winners have been Europeans." Brazil manager Tite bit back: "We don't have, with all due respect, Azerbaijan to play. We don't have anyone that gives you a break. The qualifiers here have a much higher degree of difficulty than the group stage [of European qualifying]." On this occasion it is hard not to agree with Tite, the South American section is although easier to qualify due to more spots but more gruelling a campaign and more likely to face stiffer opposition. Anyway, Brazil and France could meet in the final as they did in 1998 – would be some viewing.

 So, what are their chances?

Brazil should finish op of the group (although Serbia and Switzerland will be tough tests) and then from there they may face South American foes Uruguay in the last-16, avenge their 2014 7-1 reverse against Germany in the quarters, their biggest rivals Argentina in the semi-finals and then, well who knows? Although it has been European opposition which has proven a stumbling block, it could be Messi’s Argentina which thwarts them this time.

Verdict: Group G Winners (9 points) – Semi-finals
Manager: Tite is a manager full of confidence and charisma – only suffering 2 defeats in 42 competitive matches. He won the Copa America in 2019 and has a host of trophies with club sides Corinthians, Gremio and Internacional. Tite seemed to be taken by surprise by how well his side performed in a recent World Cup warm up match against Ghana where they ran out 3-0 winners: "In the first half, the team mobilised to, after losing possession, immediately regain control of the ball," he said. The high press, man to man marking and quick transition from defence to attack should there be an opportunity makes this Brazil side a rather complete one. Tite left out a trio of Gabriel named Arsenal players (defender Gabriel, midfielder Martinelli and striker Jesus) in a surprising omission but has reached out to the players. It will be interesting to see who makes the final squad.

Key players: Who isn’t a key player? Neymar has been the golden player for the past decade, carrying the burden of a nation’s hopes on his shoulders during the last couple of World Cups. He is still at the top his game forming a formidable front 3 of Neymar, Messi and Mbappe for his club side. But this time he has support, and he will want to ensure that his legacy is secured with a World Cup title to follow success previously at the Olympic Games and in the Confederations Cup. Neymar brings an abundance of flamboyant skills to the pitch as well as the ability to take the ball past defenders and has 74 goals for his side at the time of writing. Gabriel Jesus, given a more prominent role at club Arsenal, has burst into life as an out and out centre forward – perhaps someone who can lead the line and provide a focal point for attacking players such as Barcelona’s Raphinha. It is Richarlison who is favourite to lead the line having provided some much-needed back-up to Harry Kane.




Former legend Samuel Eto’o demands results…

 Think of Cameroon and for those that are old enough, the image of a dancing Roger Milla celebrating a goal at the 1990 World Cup emerges. But memories have been few and far between since then and Camerron have lost their last 7 games at the finals...

Okay so let's take a look at the positives. Cameroon beat a talented Algeria side on away goals to make the tournament, meaning that one of Africa's best players Mahrez missed out on the tournament. Next, they have a host of talent playing across Europe’s top leagues including Inter Milan’s André Onana, Bayern Munich’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Karl Toko Ekambi of Lyon (who scored the dramatic late-minute winner against Algeria) and Napoli’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Brentford’s Bryan Mbuemo has committed his allegiance to the Cameroon national team bolstering their attack. Thirdly one of the country's top scorers is still playing - Vincent Paté Aboubakar holds the captain’s armband and is the country’s second top goal scorer of all time (33). He will be emulating their former star Samuel Eto’o who leads the way with 54.

And now for the negatives. The very same leading goal scorer of all time in Cameroon's history, Samuel Eto’o, who is President of the Cameroon Football Federation, has reportedly blocked players re-joining the team in time for the World Cup. Most notably, Liverpool's Joel Matip, who first retired back in 2017 (when times for the national team were arguably bleaker). This could be costly as Cameroon desperately need a robust defence to thwart the likes of Brazil's and Serbia's front lines.

Secondly, Cameroon haven’t won a World Cup match since 2002. No African side got out the group stage last time out either (although arguably African nations are heavily underrepresented at the World Cup compared to their European counterparts.) So there needs to be a breakthrough and Cameroon will need to raise their game to get it.


So, what are their chances?

Their record isn’t hopeful. Africa needs a country to lead the way, but Cameroon may be outdone by star quality of opposition players.

Their group could have been more favourable, but they will need to show a similar team spirit as they did in qualification to oust their opponents, develop a clear style of play and tactical nous, led by manager Rigobert Song, and star players will have to adopt a ruthless approach in front of goal as they did at AFCON. Facing Brazil for a third time will be daunting, but the Indomitable Lions will be hoping for more luck this time around. They have never faced Serbia or Switzerland at the World Cup so it will be interesting how they do against their European foes.

Defeats against Uzbekistan and South Korea haven't inspired in recent matches. Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland are all formidable opponents though and it is a struggle to see where the points would come from.

Verdict: Group stage (4th – 0 points)

Manager: Rigobert Song (Cameroon) is Cameroon’s most capped player, has plenty of pedigree when it comes to World Cups although perhaps not all fond memories – along with Zidane he has been sent off at 2 World Cup tournaments in 1994 & 1998. Funnily enough, Song obtained his coaching badges back in 2012 from the prestigious Clairefontaine Football Academy graduating with Zidane too! His nephew also plays professionally, formerly of Arsenal (Alex Song). Rigobert became manager after the successful AFCON tournament and is bullish about the World Cup: "We have to reach the semi-finals at least."

Key players: Vincent Aboubakar will look to lead the forward line for Cameroon having hauled an impressive 8 goals at the AFCON championships earlier this year, 3 more than compatriot Karl Toko Ekambi with 5 goals. Aboubakar has been a reliable goalscorer wherever he has played including Porto where he spent 5 seasons; it was surprising to see he didn’t make a move to the Premier League or La Liga. He now plies his trade at Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League and won’t have far to travel for the World Cup! He has won titles with Besiktas, Porto and his country to boot. Able to score with right foot and left-foot, he can often find space in the box – he is also powerful in the air and is a target man for the Indomitable Lions. Bryan Mbuemo is an important addition and has been in sparkling form for Brentford in the Premier League in the past couple of seasons grabbing 6 goals and making 7 assists. Between those two will be a concern



Could this be Serbia’s best ever generation?

Whenever Serbia find themselves at the World Cup they are often described as dark horses before crashing out at the group stages. But this time, despite being 100 to 1 to win the tournament, the dark horses tag is more than earned having topped a qualification group with Portugal. A forward line that is up there with the best includes Fulham’s Mitrovic (who scored more than 40 goals in the Championship and has backed that record up with a prolific showing in the Premier League), Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic, Ajax’s Tadic and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic (who has scored over 40 goals in the past two seasons) form a formidable attack. Filip Kostic having won the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt has made his way to Juventus and should also supply an attacking threat on the flanks.

Their defence on the other hand can be suspect - they conceded 9 goals in qualifying. Serbia like to play three at the back with Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Veljkovic (Werder Bremen) and Pavlovic (Red Bull Salzburg) but they will need to be more robust in their opener against Brazil. Goalkeeper Rajkovic will need to show more of his Ligue 1 form if selected between the sticks (he has achieved clean sheets into double figures over the past three seasons), his form secured a move to La Liga side Mallorca.

Manager: Dragan Stojkovic has no doubt developed a dangerous attacking side and he will be desperate to make it out of the knockout stages. He will need to find a way of getting past the Swiss and the Brazilians which they failed to do at the 2018 edition. A star player in his playing career for the then Yugoslavia national team as well as Marseille, Stojkovic will hope his players can live up his expectations.

So, what are their chances?

This may be extremely controversial – but they will finish ahead of the Swiss. If they finish second, they will likely face Portugal who may be packed with stars but struggle to find their team chemistry since winning the Euros back in 2016. Having beaten them before may give the Serbians confidence where they will face a skilful but youthful Spanish outfit. They may outmanoeuvre them before falling in the semi-finals. Bold prediction!

Verdict: Group G stage runners up (2nd – 6 points) Semi-Finals

Key players: He might not have found himself playing at the highest of levels in recent seasons but there is no doubt Aleksandar Mitrovic is a great striker breaking the Championship’s (English second division) scoring record with 43 goals in a single 46-game season. There were doubts he could do it at Premier League level but a brace against Liverpool and Virgil Van Dijk put the doubters to rest. He’s close to 50 goals for the national side, the leading national goal scorer for Serbia and prior World Cup scorer against this year’s group opponents Switzerland back in 2018. He is at his best between the penalty spot and the goal, using his strength and movement to fend off or fool defenders so he will need the service from the likes of Milinkovic-Savic and Dusan Tadic if Serbia are to make the most of their ‘dark horses’ tag.



The Swiss play and look like a top-tier side. But why do they falter when it matters?

The Swiss are at their 5th successive World Cup and are considered one of the most consistent teams, finishing ahead of European Champions Italy in qualifying. They are a stubborn team to break down (conceding once in 6 qualifiers) and that will be tested against the likes of Brazil and Serbia. They are capable of playing the top sides; they’ve edged out a youthful Spain in the Nations League and France at Euro 2020. But they haven’t made it deep into a World Cup for a long time (no quarter final since 1954). Many of the names at the tournament will be familiar; Shaqiri once of Stoke and Liverpool remains a talisman (and scorer of spectacular goals on the biggest stages) although Xhaka who has started well at Arsenal this season may offer the leadership required to drag the Swiss through a tricky group stage. Yann Sommer is a world class goalkeeper and a dependable figure at the back, with Man City’s Akanji and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Elvedi operating in front. Breel Embolo is expected to lead the line should he stay clear of injury – it will be interesting to see what reception he gets when facing the country of birth, Cameroon.

So, what are their chances?

This will be close, but a group-stage exit beckons. Despite drawing with Brazil and beating Serbia 2-1 4 years ago, both Brazil’s & Serbia’s attacking threat have come on leaps and bounds. Cameroon will be robust but will not have enough quality in defensive positions. The Swiss team remains stable, but they don’t seem to have added additional quality to the side. That doesn’t mean they won’t be run extraordinarily close and their defence could be key to squeezing points out of the group.

Verdict: Group stage (3rd – 3 points)

Manager: Murat Yakin has overseen Switzerland since Euro 2020 and so far, so good; he managed to oust Italy in World Cup qualification thanks in part to Northern Ireland who held the Azzurri to a goalless draw (he thanked the Irish team by sending 20lbs of Swiss chocolate!). He has previously managed club sides FC Basel (where he has won titles as both a player and manager), Spartak Moscow and most recently FC Schaffhausen. Yakin even has outside entrepreneurial interests including becoming the founder of a new bedding company. Hoping to avoid sleepless nights in the World Cup this year, can Yakin guide the Swiss to glory?

Key players: Granit Xhaka. At club level Xhaka has been through the mill, being booed by home support to lauding all the plaudits this term. At international level things seem a little calmer (despite an alleged tactical dispute with Yakin during the summer’s Nations League campaign). Xhaka was part of the Swiss team that won the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup and has scored 12 goals in over 100 appearances for the national side. Xhaka is often deployed in a deep midfield role but for club this season you can see he forays forward already bagging a goal for Arsenal. Xhaka will hope to lead his side to glory but may have to temper his and his teammate’s reactions when facing Serbia; FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri after they celebrated their goals during a 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia by performing an Albanian nationalist symbol. This could be a fight for second spot, so a huge game awaits both sides in the group stage.

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