Switzerland v Cameroon
Switzerland begin their fifth consecutive World Cup campaign on Thursday with a first-ever match against Cameroon. Gracing this stage five times in a row is no mean feat. England, France, Germany, Portugal, and Spain are the only other European teams to have achieved this since the 2006 World Cup and that is an elite list for the Swiss to find themselves in. That consistency has gradually raised expectations on a team that has a settled core and several experienced heads used to representing in football’s biggest tournament. It is only natural that a lot is expected of this group, expectations that only grew higher with a first quarter-final appearance in a major tournament since 1954 after their shootout triumph over France at EURO 2020.
The opening game is already viewed as a must-win for Switzerland in a group that has much familiarity. Serbia and Brazil were also in the Nati’s group in 2018 as they finished unbeaten and pipped Serbia to second courtesy of a last-minute Xherdan Shaqiri winner. Cameroon are the only difference this time around and represent a new challenge. With presumably harder games to come against the other two opponents, any slip-ups here could be very damaging to hopes of progression.
Cameroon come into this tournament on a poor run of form. They narrowly qualified for the tournament and they face the challenge of one of the toughest groups in the World Cup. They take on Brazil, Serbia and Thursday’s opponent, Switzerland. The African side will be looking to make a positive start in order to build confidence.
They are likely to line up in either a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. These are the formations favoured by the hugely popular Rigobert Song. Frank Anguissa is their key man in the middle of the park. He comes into this tournament in great form. The midfielder has been a key part of Napoli’s successful start to the season. His national side will need him to be at his best if they are to compete against a handy Switzerland side.
Switzerland have beaten Spain, Portugal and Czech Republic in their last 3 competitive matches. They lost their warmup match against Ghana so Cameroon will be encouraged by that result. Ultimately, I think Switzerland will edge it but it’s a tough one to call.
Granit Xhaka is another key component of this Swiss team. Since his debut in 2011, he has grown into a leader and is rightfully the captain of the team after the retirement of Stephan Lichtsteiner in 2020. A player that has often divided opinion at club level is the engine of this team and is the glue that keeps Switzerland together.
For the first time in a while, Xhaka is showing his consistent and reliable national team form at club level with Arsenal. This only bodes well for Switzerland ahead of the opening match. Capable of a “Xhaka-boom” or two (goal from distance), Xhaka has scored in the last two World Cup tournaments.
With this in mind, I believe Xhaka will have at least one shot on target against Cameroon. This is the weakest side in the group and with the freedom he should enjoy on the pitch, I don’t think he’ll be able to resist a shot or two from distance.
Choupo-Moting has fought his way into the Bayern Munich starting 11 this season. He has found the net 6 times in the Bundesliga and has only started 6 matches. The striker is averaging 1.7 shots on target per 90 minutes played in the league this season. He will be keen to impress after performing poorly last African Cup Of Nations.
Cameroon are averaging 11 shots per game in their last 10 matches so they should create some chances for the striker. They should commit bodies forward to support Choupo-Moting as the game goes on.
Colins Fai made 10 fouls in Cameroon’s last 5 matches. The defender plays his football in Saudi Arabia so there is very little foul data to access at club level but he looks primed to make fouls in this one.
The right-back is likely to be tasked with keeping Ruben Vargas quiet. The Augsburg wide player is an accomplished dribbler and he is likely to cause problems down Cameroon’s right-hand side. Opposition right-backs in Switzerland’s last 3 matches have made 2, 1, and 2 fouls.
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