No, we did it wrong. Someone clearly decided to accidentally put Cameroon in World Cup Group E 2018… we did last time… oh we do it again? For real? Three out of four teams back in the same group…okay then.
Well, just like last time, this could very likely be the same outcome on paper. Brazil led the group despite Switzerland drawing and Serbia missed out despite winning their opening game against Costa Rica four years ago.
Brazil remain one of the favorites to go all the way, as they always seem to be. Like four years ago, it’s entirely possible that Brazil remain unbeaten in the group, but picking up all nine points will be a challenge, especially for the two European sides in their opening two games. An improved Serbia side could have the forward partnership to challenge both favorites and reach their first knockout round only as Serbia.
Cameroon’s qualifying history will go down in the history books, a final gasp of the road equalizer that propelled them to the World Cup once again. But it will be an uphill battle for them to reach the knockouts for the first time in a couple of decades.
Thu 24 Nov Switzerland vs Cameroon 5:00am Al Janoub Stadium – FS1, Telemundo
Thursday, Nov 24, Brazil vs. Serbia, 2 p.m. Lusail Stadium – FOX, Telemundo
Mon 28 Nov Cameroon vs Serbia 5:00am Al Janoub Stadium – FS1, Telemundo
Mon, Nov 28, Brazil vs Switzerland, 11:00 am Stadium 974 – FOX, Telemundo
Friday, December 2, Cameroon vs. Brazil, 2 p.m. Lusail Stadium – FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Dec 2, Serbia vs. Switzerland, 2 p.m. Stadion 974 – FS1, Universo
BRAZIL [BRA – G1 – Pot 1]
head coach: Adenor Leonardo Bacchi aka “Tite” (BRA)
Nickname: Canarinho / A Seleção
Rankings: FIFA 1 / ELO 1
Qualification: CONEMBOL Round Robin, 1st place
Looks: 22 / Best finish: Master (’58 ’62 ’70 ’94 ’02)
Current Results: International Friendly – W 5-1 v Tunisia; W 3-0 against Ghana
Players to know/watch: Yes. All of the above.
This could be the best team in the world right now. In normal circumstances, where Brazil hasn’t been their usual dominance, I could argue that this is a potentially tricky group. In their current form, it’s more a question of when they start scoring and when do they stop. Their biggest opponents at this tournament are probably themselves – if they can keep their composure and act as a team, they could add a sixth star to their shirts.
CAMEROON [CMR / G4 – Pot 4]
head coach: Rigobert song (CMR)
Nickname: Indomitable lions
Rankings: FIFA 43 / ELO 60
Qualification: CAF Group D Second Round Winner; Won overall playoff against Algeria 2-2 on away goals after extra time
Looks: 8th / Best finish: Quarterfinals (1990)
Current Results: International Friendly – D 1-1 v Panama; D 1-1 against Jamaica
Players you should know: DEF Olivier Mbazio (Philadelphia Union/MLS) and Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders/MLS), a total of 29 international caps
Player to watch: FWD Vincent Aboubakar, Al-Nassr (KSA), 91 caps / 33 international goals
Cameroon were literally seconds from missing out on the World Cup but a late equalizer away in Algeria by Karl Toko Ekambi snatched qualifying from the jaws of despair. However, these don’t seem to be the 1990’s era teams that consistently clinched results on the world stage. They missed the 2018 tournament and their last two appearances in 2014 and 2010, they lost all six of their group matches and could very well see that streak continued with a very impressive group.
SERBIA [SRB / G2 – Pot 3]
head coach: Dragan Stojkovic (SRB)
Nickname: The Eagles
Rankings: FIFA 21 / ELO 16
Qualification: UEFA Group A winners
Looks: 13.* / Best finish: Fourth place* (1930, 1962) [ * – As Yugoslavia ]
Current Results: International Friendly – W vs Bahrain 5-1; UEFA Nations League B Flying Group 4 – W v Norway 2-0, W v Sweden 4-1
Players you should know: FWD Alexsandar Mitrovic, Fulham (ENG), 76 caps / 50 international goals
Player to watch: FWD Dusan Vlahovic, Juventus (ITA), 17 caps / 9 international goals
In terms of front-line partnerships, Mitrovic and Vlahovic are among the most talented pairings in the world, as Mitrovic’s goalscoring streak with Fulham is well known and Vlahovic is on course for success with Juventus. Serbia usually have a win and are the third team eliminated at the World Cup, but they could maybe sneak into that second place if Vlahovic is the extra talent they need to compete with this group because he hasn’t been here for four years was before when these teams faced each other.
SWITZERLAND [SUI / G3 – Pot 2]
head coach: Murat Jakin (SUI)
Nickname: Rossocrociati (Red Crosses)
Rankings: FIFA 15 / ELO 15
Qualification: UEFA Group C winners
Looks: 12. / Best finish: Quarterfinals (’34 ’38 ’54)
Current Results: International Friendly – L v Ghana 0-2; UEFA Nations League A Flying Group 2 – W vs Czech Republic 2-1; W at Spain 2-1
Players you should know: MID Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire (MLS), 109 caps / 26 international goals
Player to watch: FWD Breel Embolo, Monaco (FRA), 59 caps / 11 international goals
The Swiss are the embodiment of a one-and-done knockout team. They can go head-to-head with the best in the world every day, for example beating Spain on the road in the Nations League and blowing up in Portugal a few months earlier. They are usually organised, play a lot of low-goal games and went unbeaten in their qualifying group to lead Italy. Embolo led the team in both the qualifying and Nations League groups and if he scores a couple of goals here the Swiss will likely be in a good position to reach the last 16 again.
Four years ago it was Switzerland who advanced by five points with an opening draw against Brazil and a win over Serbia. This year… I think the tide could turn as Serbia offer the best chance to steal points from Brazil on their way to second place in the group. It’s still a race for second place and Serbia no longer have to rely on Mitrovic to score the bulk of the goals, although he still does. It was a goal from Shaqiri in the 90th minute that separated the two teams for second place last time out and I think Serbia can get that crucial win over the Swiss to take the other place in the group.
Brazil – Serbia – Switzerland – Cameroon