Yle Sporten broadcasts: Is this the WC’s real group of death? The gold favorite, the European surprises and the African question mark begin their tournament

Brazil is expected to take care of the group victory, but in the World Cup of the rattlers, you shouldn’t take anything for granted. Especially when both Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon have the capacity to surprise. Today everyone starts their WC.

At 12.00 Switzerland–Cameroon, TV2 and Yle Arena

FIFA World Cup, Group G, Al Janoub Stadium, Al-Wakrah
Commentator: Mattias Simonsen

Switzerland’s position: Europe’s best defense

We start off with a populist parallel: if you like the Finnish men’s national team in the ice hockey way of playing, you can easily sympathize with Switzerland.

The Swiss conceded just two goals in the entire World Cup qualification and won their group ahead of Italy, among others. Combined with an ability to score early goals (surprisingly often within the first half hour of the match) there is much to say that they can repeat the feat from the EC.

There, Switzerland knocked out France on penalties. And then also forced Spain into a penalty shootout in the quarter.

The biggest question is whether goalkeeping hero Yann Sommer is fit. Before injuring his ankle in October, he managed to rewrite the record for saves in the Bundesliga when he parried 19 balls against Bayern Munich. Much depends on whether he can play, especially against Brazil.

Yann Sommer
Caption
Goalkeeper Yann Sommer is a key player in Switzerland.

Image: EPA-EFE

In addition, Switzerland lacks a pure striker. But the speed of the changes has been enough so far.

Cameroon’s situation: Messy but hopeful

There were many who spoke of Cameroon as the “most complete team” of the African championship competitions. But still they went out in the semi-finals against Egypt.

Switzerland like to play counter-attacking football and with that in mind, Cameroon are a dream opposition as they in turn want to keep the ball. But as Switzerland is good at defending the middle of the field, Cameroon likes to play out to the edges. Sounds like a yummy arrangement.

Fresh coach Rigobert Song (well, the former player icon) has a lot of questions to answer. Not least after leaving the defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui, in weekdays in European playing Gent, out of the squad. “He’s too slow,” was the explanation. Which many people find difficult to buy.

Rigobert Song
Caption
Cameroon is coached by the legendary Rigobert Song.

Image: EPA-EFE

The goal shooting is also a small question mark. Vincent Aboubakar won the shooting league in the African championships, but scored his eight goals against Blueberries. The eyes are instead directed towards Karl Toko Ekambi.

At the same time, the new president of the National Football Association, Samuel Eto’o (well, he) has openly spoken about Cameroon going to the final. It never hurts to aim high.

Stay tuned: Does either dare to play football?

Brazil is the clear favorite of the group. Assuming no one else in the group does a “Saudi Arabia” or a “Japan”, the rest of the quartet compete primarily for second place.

In the same way as Denmark and Tunisia did. And in the same way that Poland and Mexico did.

There are many indications that Switzerland-Cameroon will also be 90 minutes of ultra-cautious football. Every point in this group can be worth its weight in gold. And a loss to any team other than Brazil will most likely mean the tournament is over.

Commentator’s tip: No, they don’t

Cameroon have a habit of always conceding goals. Or, okay, let’s put it this way, the only times Cameroon have kept a clean sheet this year are in the African Championship qualifiers against Burundi and Equatorial Guinea (also in just one of two games against them).

Switzerland may have their question marks going forward, but they should get a ball in. And given that Switzerland, at least tactically, fits Cameroon like a glove, they should probably put one in as well. Especially if Sommer can’t play.

We say 1-1.

At 15.00 Uruguay–South Korea, MTV3

At 18.00 Portugal-Ghana, MTV3

At 21.00 Brazil-Serbia, TV2 and Yle Arena

Soccer World Cup, Group G
Lusail Stadium, Lusail
Commentators: Christoffer Herberts and expert commentator Kasper Hämäläinen

Brazil’s location: The order is simple – gold

Most champion with five World Cup titles, but it has actually been 20 years since Brazil last won World Cup gold. That is, a whole eternity measured in the football unit “brass measure”.

Now it will be time again, especially as old rivals such as Argentina and Germany have already suffered crushing defeats and France is injured.

Popular coach Tite has been in charge of the team since 2016, and Brazil have lost just two games in that time. The team was by far the best in the South American qualifier and the squad has both breadth and depth.

Continuity exists with names such as Neymar, Thiago Silva and Casemiro, but also fresh fresh names have been picked up along the way, such as Raphinha, Vinicius Junior and most recently Antony and Gabriel Martinelli.

Player in light green shirt kicks a ball in training.
Caption
Richarlison is fit and starting after an injury-plagued fall.

Image: IMAGO/Sportimage/All Over Press

The team is still not completely complete, the full backs (Juventus duo Danilo and Alex Sandro) are not the WC’s best and there are question marks about who will be the spearhead at the front: Neymar himself, Gabriel Jesus or Richarlison? In the premiere, it will be the latter who starts, despite an autumn without a league goal for the new club Tottenham. Neymar then fills in behind Richarlison.

Serbia’s situation: Charming bunch – good going forward and fragile at the back

It’s more or less a tradition in Serbian (and before that Yugoslav) football: After a brilliant qualification and a successful promotion, expectations are raised to the skies – but once in the playoffs, everything comes crashing down.

The first part of that tradition has already been completed, the Serbians won their World Cup qualifying group ahead of Portugal, and in this year’s Nations League the team finished first ahead of Norway, Slovenia and Sweden. Now Serbia will try to change in the second part and avoid the familiar failure in the major tournament from repeating.

Players in white cheer after a goal with one hand in the air.
Caption
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a hat-trick against Sweden earlier this fall.

Image: IMAGO/MN Press Photo/ All Over Press

Serbia’s strengths and weaknesses are easy to analyze. Up front, the team is extremely strong, with Juventus’ goalscorer Dusan Vlahovic, Fulham’s attacking profile Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ajax’s genius Dusan Tadic and Lazio’s versatile Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. In addition, the wingbacks are excellent.

But backwards it is all the more fragile. Serbia plays with three centre-backs to make up for the shortcomings, but the defenders are not absolutely top-class, whichever of them gets to start. The challenge for hugely popular coach Dragan Stojkovic will be to balance out the midfield to support the back line, and against Brazil the tip is therefore that one of the forward duo Vlahovic-Mitrovic is actually poked.

Watch out for: Brazil’s European ghost

Since Brazil’s World Cup gold in 2002, the pattern in all World Cup tournaments has been the same: The brass have gone out against European opposition. In total, there have been five straight losses against teams from Europe in the knockout stage (France, Holland, Germany, Holland again and Belgium).

How Brazil handled this fact in the upload? By completely ignoring European law. Since the quarter-final loss to Belgium in the 2018 World Cup, Brazil have faced just one team from Europe, a 3-1 win away to the Czech Republic in March 2019. This year’s national team break has instead featured practice matches against South Korea, Japan, Ghana and Tunisia.

As a result, Brazil will come to a World Cup without having faced European opposition for three years and eight months, the longest break since the early 1950s. And then both Switzerland and Serbia are already waiting in the group stage. Is Brazil ready? Or is it rather the other way around, the European nations don’t understand what’s coming and get really upset?

Commentator’s tip: Turn on the TV, it might be interesting

The best match of the first group stage in terms of quality? Expectations are high, and this could be really interesting.

Serbia are good enough to provide opposition, with Brazil kicking off the gold rush with a win. 2–1 to the number one champion favorite.

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