No, we’ve done this wrong. Someone has clearly decided to put Cameroon into the 2018 World Cup Group E by mistake...we did this last time...oh we’re doing it again? Really? Three out of four teams in the same group again...okay then.
Well, just like last time out, on paper this very likely could be the same outcome. Brazil topped the group despite drawing Swizterland and Serbia missed out despite winning their opening game which four years ago was against Costa Rica.
Brazil are still one of the favorites to go all the way as they seemingly always will be. Like four years ago, it’s entirely possible that Brazil does go unbeaten in the group but claiming all nine points will be a challenge especially facing the two European teams in the opening two games. An improved Serbian team might have the strike partnership to challenge both favorites and make their first knockout stage as just Serbia.
Cameroon qualifying tale will go down in the history books, a last gasp road equalizer that propelled them to the World Cup once again. But it will be an uphill battle for them to make the knockouts for the first time in a couple of decades.
Thurs, Nov. 24, Switzerland vs. Cameroon, 5 a.m. Al Janoub Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Thurs, Nov. 24, Brazil vs. Serbia, 2 p.m. Lusail Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Mon, Nov. 28, Cameroon vs. Serbia, 5 a.m. Al Janoub Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Mon, Nov. 28, Brazil vs. Switzerland, 11 a.m. Stadium 974 - FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Dec. 2, Cameroon vs. Brazil, 2 p.m. Lusail Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Dec. 2, Serbia vs. Switzerland, 2 p.m. Stadium 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
Appearance: 22nd / Best Finish: Champions (‘58 ‘62 ‘70 ‘94 ‘02)
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W 5-1 vs Tunisia; W 3-0 vs Ghana
Players You Should Know/Watch: Yes. All of the above.
This very well could be the best team in the world right now. Under normal circumstances in which Brazil wasn’t their usual dominant selves, I could argue this is a potentially tricky group. In their current form, it’s more a matter of when they start scoring and if they choose to stop. Their biggest opponent this tournament is likely to be themselves – if they can keep their composure and operate as a team, they could add a sixth star to their jerseys.
CAMEROON [CMR / G4 – Pot 4]
Head Coach: Rigobert Song (CMR)
Nickname: Indomitable Lions
Rankings: FIFA 43 / ELO 60
Qualification: CAF Second Round Group D Winners; Won Aggregate Playoff vs Algeria 2-2 on away goals after extra time
Appearance: 8th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1990)
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – D 1-1 vs Panama; D 1-1 vs Jamaica
Players You Should Know: DEF Olivier Mbazio (Philadelphia Union/MLS) and Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders/MLS), 29 combined Int’l caps
Player You Should Watch: FWD Vincent Aboubakar, Al-Nassr (KSA), 91 Int’l Caps / 33 Int’l Goals
Cameroon was literally seconds away from missing out of the World Cup, but a late away equalizer in Algeria by Karl Toko Ekambi grabbed qualification from the jaws of despair. This however does not appear to be the vintage 1990s era teams that regularly claimed results at the world stage. They missed the 2018 tournament and their previous two appearances in 2014 and 2010 they lost all six of their group games and very well could see that streak continue with a very formidable group.
SERBIA [SRB / G2 – Pot 3]
Head Coach: Dragan Stojkovic (SRB)
Nickname: The Eagles
Rankings: FIFA 21 / ELO 16
Qualification: UEFA Group A Winners
Appearance: 13th* / Best Finish: Fourth Place* (1930, 1962) [ * - As Yugoslavia ]
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W vs Bahrain 5-1; UEFA Nations League B Flight Group 4 – W at Norway 2-0, W vs Sweden 4-1
Player You Should Know: FWD Alexsandar Mitrovic, Fulham (ENG), 76 Int’l Caps / 50 Int’l’ Goals
Player You Should Watch: FWD Dusan Vlahovic, Juventus (ITA), 17 Int’l Caps / 9 Int’l Goals
As far as front line partnerships go, Mitrovic and Vlahovic are among the world’s most talented pairings up front as Mitrovic’s scoring exploits with Fulham are well known and Vlahovic is hitting his stride with Juventus. Serbia is usually a one win and out as a third place team at the World Cup but they just might be able to sneak into that second spot if Vlahovic is that added talent they need to compete with this group because he wasn’t here four years ago when these teams faced off.
SWITZERLAND [SUI / G3 – Pot 2]
Head Coach: Murat Yakin (SUI)
Nickname: Rossocrociati (Red Crosses)
Rankings: FIFA 15 / ELO 15
Qualification: UEFA Group C Winners
Appearance: 12th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (‘34 ‘38 ‘54)
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – L vs Ghana 0-2; UEFA Nations League A Flight Group 2 – W vs Czech Rep 2-1; W at Spain 2-1
Player You Should Know: MID Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire (MLS), 109 Int’l Caps / 26 Int’l Goals
Player You Should Watch: FWD Breel Embolo, Monaco (FRA), 59 Int’l Caps / 11 Int’l Goals
The Swiss are very much the embodiment of a one and done knockout team. They can on any day compete with the best in the world like say knocking off Spain on the road in the Nations League and some months prior get blasted in Portugal. They are usually organized, play a lot of low scoring games, and went unbeaten in their qualifying group to top Italy. Embolo led the team in scoring in both their qualifying and Nations League group and if he notches a couple of goals here the Swiss will likely be in a good spot to make the Round of 16 again.
Four years ago it was Switzerland that advanced with five points, with an opening draw against Brazil and a win over Serbia. This year...I think the tables might turn, with Serbia providing the best chance to steal points from Brazil enroute to claiming that second spot in the group. It is a race for second place regardless, and Serbia doesn’t have to rely on Mitrovic anymore to do the bulk of the scoring even though he still does. It was a Shaqiri 90th minute goal that separated the two teams for second place last time around, and I think Serbia can grab that crucial win against the Swiss to claim the other spot in the group.
Brazil - Serbia - Switzerland - Cameroon