AL-WAKRAH, Qatar – Switzerland got their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win over Cameroon at Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday.
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Cameroon had chances to take the lead in the first half, but it was Switzerland who finally broke the deadlock in the 48th minute with Breel Embolo finishing from close range.
Switzerland had brilliant chances to add to their tally but were thwarted by a remarkable last-minute defense.
While Brazil and Serbia are on the lookout for these teams, it is Switzerland who will go ahead with confidence, while Cameroon need two outstanding performances to have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. of final.
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1. The Cameroonian-born striker who ruined Cameroon’s hopes
The breakthrough finally came early in the second half. Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross found Embolo from around eight yards out and he finished comfortably past goalkeeper Andre Onana. It was Embolo’s first World Cup goal and you imagine one of the best moments of his life, but the celebrations were muted. Instead, he raised his hand to apologize – a sign of respect.
Embolo was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1997 but grew up in Basel. His youth career saw him progress through the ranks to join the FC Basel first team and he played there for two seasons before joining the Bundesliga.
But his native land was a subject in the Swiss camp this week. Captain Granit Xhaka said on the eve of the game that the two spoke about Embolo’s roots, but Xhaka said “he is calm and he will enjoy the game”, adding “I hope he scores “. That’s exactly what he did.
Before the game, Cameroon fans serenaded one of their national heroes in the person of Roger Milla, who received a special FIFA award on the pitch. But just over an hour later, they found themselves lamenting a striker who escaped as Embolo was left with his own slice of World Cup history.
2. Cameroon’s hopes hang by a thread
With Brazil and Serbia joining these two teams in Group G, it was such an important game. Three points and they are still in contention for knockouts, but a defeat means Cameroon will need to produce two of the greatest performances of recent times if they are to qualify for the knockout stages.
They had their chances after dominating the first half and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was central to most of what they did well, but also amid their squandered chances. The Bayern Munich star was unable to get past goalkeeper Yann Sommer on goal, while Bryan Mbeumo also registered an effort with Karl Toko Ekambi that blasted the rebound. And they also had two chances squandered by brilliant defender Silvan Widmer.
Cameroon had been the dominant team but their lack of a lead cost them dearly and once Switzerland got ahead they were able to comfortably control the rest of the match and should have extended their lead, but for a remarkable scrambled defense of Onana, Andre -Frank Zambo Anguissa and the exceptional Jean-Charles Castelletto.
In the last 14 World Cup matches where Cameroon have fallen behind, they have never managed to win it back. And as the first round of matches draw to a close, we are still awaiting a goal from one of the four African nations, with Ghana to complete the set later on Thursday. We saw all four come out of the blocks in the first half, but unable to gain a foothold. Senegal failed to defeat the Netherlands on Monday, eventually losing 2-0. Tunisia held Denmark 0-0 on Tuesday, followed by Morocco on Wednesday against Croatia. And then Cameroon failed to overtake Switzerland on Thursday.
3. Switzerland must improve to survive
Cameroon’s defense was dismal for the Swiss winner. Embolo was completely unmarked in the middle, with Nicolas Nkoulou caught eyeing the ball. And if not for a brilliant save from Onana, Ruben Vargas would have had to add an almost identical second 18 minutes later.
Victory is all that mattered to Switzerland, but they looked less impressive a team than the sum of their parts. Although there were flashes of class from Xhaka, Shaqiri and Vargas, their end product wasn’t good enough and they can’t just rely on a counterattack against Serbia and Brazil. they want to progress. And although Embolo got their winner, they need a lot more from him. There were times when he needed too many touches to prepare, and in that moment the ball was stolen from him. Their defense also looked shaky at times, requiring panicked scrambling at the back to prevent Cameroon from breaking through.
Swiss: Sommer 7, Widmer 7, Elvedi 6, Akanji 6, Rodriguez 7, Xhaka 6, Freuler 8, Sow 6, Vargas 5, Shaqiri 7, Embolo 7
Subtitles: Frei 6, Okafor 6, Seferovic 6, Rieder 6, Comert 6
Cameroon: Onana 7, Fai 5, Nkoulou 5, Castelletto 8, Tolo 5, Hongla 6, Gouet 6, Anguissa 6, Mbuemo 6, Ekambi 5, Choupo-Moting 6
Subtitles: Ondoua 6, Aboubaker 6, Nkoudou 6, Moumi Ngamaleu 6
Best and Worst Performers
BEST: Remo Freuler
Dictated to play well in midfield and did well to collect space in front of the back four with Xhaka and Sow higher up.
Worst: Karl Toko Ekambi
Ekambi had Cameroon’s best chance of the game and failed to convert as Widmer took him out of the game.
Highlights and Moments
Breel Embolo puts Switzerland in the lead and decides not to celebrate his goal against Cameroon, his native country pic.twitter.com/7amWCNa9kD
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 24, 2022
After the game: What players and managers said
Cameroon coach Rigobert Song on Embolo: “It makes it more difficult but that’s the game. We are all proud of our country – you saw he didn’t celebrate his goal – but this is an integral part of the sport. I’m happy and proud of him because I think he plays for the Swiss national team, I wish he was by my side, but that’s not how it is happened, that’s life.
“I believe that in top-level football, you have to know how to bounce back. In 1990, Cameroon beat Argentina, but Argentina went to the final, so anything is possible. We believe in this dream and I believe in the next game. will be decisive and that is where we will have to put our money where our mouth is with this generation.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Cameroon now have the second longest losing streak in World Cup history, having lost eight games in a row. Mexico tops the list with nine consecutive defeats between 1930 and 1958.
Embolo is not the first player to score against his native country at a World Cup. Coincidentally, he was previously another Swiss player as Fredy (Alfred) Bickel scored against Germany in the 1938 World Cup. Bickel was born in Eppstein, Germany.
Swiss: A victory in this match was key for the Swiss, as it is one of the next tournament favorites for them. They face Brazil in Doha on Monday, before finishing their group campaign against Serbia in Doha next Friday in what should be the deciding game.
Cameroon: The African nation now faces it and will almost certainly have to beat Serbia at Al Wakra on Monday to have a realistic chance of qualifying. They complete the group stage against Brazil in Lusail on Friday.