Switzerland 2-1 Cameroon: What’s your prediction?
Switzerland hope to secure early points in a tough Group G when they face Cameroon in their World Cup opener on Thursday after a year of solid performances on the European stage.
The Swiss reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals before losing a penalty shootout to Spain. They also finished ahead of Italy in their World Cup qualifying group to avoid the playoffs.
With Granit Xhaka anchoring the midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri commanding the flank, Switzerland are expected to dominate Cameroon and, at the very least, cause trouble for their other group opponents Serbia and favourites Brazil.
The biggest question mark comes between the posts. Manager Murat Yakin has selected four goalkeepers due to injury concerns over starter Yann Sommer and back-up Jonas Omlin, calling up RB Salzburg's Philipp Kohn as one of two uncapped members of the squad.
Although Cameroon are considered the least likely side in the section to reach the round of 16, the attacking talent of players such as Napoli's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa has the potential to rattle the Swiss defence.
But Cameroon -- playing in an eighth World Cup, a record number of appearances for an African nation -- have failed to leave their mark at the finals since the 1990 edition of the tournament, when they dazzled by reaching the quarter-finals.
The Indomitable Lions have gone out at the group stage of all the World Cups they have played in since their 1990 exploits, winning only one of 15 matches.
24th November, 04:00 pm, Bangladesh time
Al-Janoub Stadium, Al-Wakrah, Qatar
* Between them the two sides have played at 19 World Cup finals, with Switzerland making their debut in the 1934 tournament in Italy and Cameroon in 1982 in Spain.
* The high point for both teams has been making it to the quarter-finals, which Switzerland did in 1934, 1938 and 1958, while Cameroon's best performance came in 1990.
* Cameroon come into the game on the back of one win, one draw and three losses in their last five games, while Switzerland have won three and lost two.
* Cameroon's last victory in a World Cup group game came against Qatar's neighbours from Saudi Arabia, who they beat 1-0 on June 6, 2002 in Saitama, Japan. They lost all their group games at the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.
* Switzerland have progressed from the group stage in three of their last four tournaments (2006, 2014 and 2018), missing out in 2010.
Previous meetings: This is the first time the two sides have met.
Prediction: Switzerland 2-1 Cameroon
Switzerland: Yann Sommer, Silvan Widmer, Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji, Breel Embolo, Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez, Djibril Sow, Ruben Vargas, Xherdan Shaqiri.
Cameroon: Andre Onana, Nicolas Nkoulou, Andre-Frank Zambo- Anguissa, Karl Toko Ekambi, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Samuel Oum Gouet, Martin Hongla, Collins Fai, Bryan Mbeumo, Jean-Charles Castelletto, Nouhou Tolo.
Following is a statbox on Switzerland at the World Cup.
FIFA Ranking: 15
Switzerland have qualified for a fifth World Cup in a row and been regulars since they first competed in 1934, bar one long 20-year absence between 1970 and 1990. They have appeared in 11 previous editions, reaching the quarter-finals three times, on debut in 1934, 1938 and 1954, when they were also hosts. More recently they have reached the round of 16 in three of the last four finals, but progressed no further.
How they qualified:
Switzerland went unbeaten through qualifying and topped a group that also contained European champions Italy, who were stunned by North Macedonia in the playoffs. Switzerland were top scorers in their group (15 goals in eight games) and only conceded twice in a ruthlessly efficient campaign. They drew both games against Italy and were also held by Northern Ireland, but had the beating of Bulgaria and Lithuania.
They had a dismal start to their Nations League A campaign, losing their first three matches to Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain, but bounced back to beat all of those teams in the return fixtures, so coach Murat Yakin will say they are a team on the up. They had a decent Euro 2020 tournament and made the quarter-finals, knocking out world champions France on penalties in the last 16. They only won one of their five games at the Euros before running out of luck against Spain, who claimed victory via spot-kicks. Since the Euros, Switzerland have played 15 matches, winning seven and losing four.
Following is a statbox on Cameroon at the World Cup:
FIFA Ranking: 43
Cameroon have competed at more World Cups than any African country, starting in Spain in 1982 when they achieved the rare feat of being unbeaten in their three group games but failed to reach the next stage. On their second appearance in 1990, they became the first African country to make the quarter-finals on a heady run led by 38-year-old striker Roger Milla. They beat holders Argentina in the opening game of the tournament in Milan and then Romania before ousting Colombia in the last 16 but were eliminated by England after extra time. However, in five subsequent World Cup appearances they have won only once – against Saudi Arabia in Japan 20 years ago.
How they qualified:
The Indomitable Lions had among the toughest qualifying paths and, although they stumbled and stuttered, grabbed a dramatic winner minutes from the end of the campaign to book a place in Qatar. Cameroon had been drawn with Ivory Coast in the group phase of qualifying with only the group winners advancing to the playoffs and edged their rivals by a point. In the playoffs they looked dead and buried after losing at home to Algeria but in the return leg in north Africa won 2-1, with Karl Toko Ekambi scoring the winner four minutes into stoppage time at the end of extra time to go through on away goals.
Cameroon lost two friendlies on a long trip to South Korea in September and have drawn much criticism for their performances from pundits at home. Defeat by Uzbekistan and South Korea did not sit well with the fans. Cameroon will go to the World Cup decidedly ill-prepared in comparison to some of the teams they will face in Group G, having played only three internationals since qualying in March. In June, they narrowly edged tiny Burundi in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier but their other match against Kenya was cancelled when their opponents were kicked out of the tournament.