The World Cup Preview: Group G
The tournament’s most successful team who failed to complete qualifying, an African side scoring a last minute decider, and two European outfits having to overcome serious opposition to qualify, Qatar’s Group G looks to become a very tasty prospect. With 5x time tournament winners Brazil looking to impress after their uninspired 2018 performance, they will be joined by Cameroon, Switzerland and Serbia. The latter two also contested Brazil in the group stages in 2018.
The bookies favourites for this tournament and every other, Brazil only played 17 out of 18 CONMEBOL qualifying matches, as the ‘Super Clasico’ match against rivals, Argentina was cancelled due to a pitch invasion by Brazilian doctors, hauling off suspected COVID-19 carriers. Fear not however, as Tite’s men finished in pole position in South America’s sole qualifying group, winning 13 matches and scoring a mammoth 40 goals on road to qualification. This feat should continue, as Brazil look to top the table comfortably.
Player to watch: Gabriel Martinelli
Neymar’s lack of sportsmanship in 2018 will ensure nobody will want to watch his on-field antics this time round… Instead, I’ll take a punt on current Arsenal star Gabriel Martinelli. Topping the Premier League, with pace, energy, and age all going in his favour – the confident young starlet will be looking to improve on the 3 caps he’s already obtained, and with Neymar hitting 30, the winger possesses many similar key traits to his elder counterpart, providing him with an excellent opportunity to force himself into the first team without changing the system too much. With Gabriel Jesus also arriving in Qatar, Brazil will be expecting the dynamic duo to translate their recent domestic success internationally. An honourable mention must go to Dani Alves. The most decorated player in history makes the squad at 39 years of age while he plies his trade in Mexico.
Topping Group A in qualifying after beating Portugal through a 90th minute winner courtesy of talisman Alexander Mitrovic, Serbia will be looking to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since the breakup with Montenegro. With a plethora of attacking options backed by an astute midfield full of physicality, Serbia will be a tough nut to crack.
Player to watch: Dusan Tadic.
The 32 year-old has come on leaps and bounds in the latter stages of his career, but Serbia’s captain will almost certainly be making his last appearance at the World Cup this winter.
Never one to score on a consistent basis, Tadic instead tends to drop back and bring more instinctive goal-scorers into play, providing teammates with an ever reliable source of balls into the box. The creative force within a physical outfit; with Mitrovic, Vlahovic and Jovic all in the calling to lead the line in Qatar, Tadic is likely to form a formidable bond with whoever gets on the end of one of his crosses.
Similarly to Serbia, Switzerland have already beaten the odds in getting on the plane to Qatar. Despite having the lowest number of points across group winners in qualifying, the Swiss only conceded 2 goals in their 8 matches, and had to overcome UEFA Euro 2020 winners Italy to reach the tournament. Building from the back and having a strong core group of players, the Swiss will be looking towards the usual suspects if they are to advance from the group this time around.
Player to watch: Granit Xhaka.
A player reborn. Xhaka will have bags of confidence after Arsenal’s recent league successes. After cleaning up his game, but still not afraid to get stuck-in, the defensive midfielder will be looking to stamp out any nonsense coming his way, especially when teammates-turned-rivals Martinelli and Jesus come calling on November 28th.
As Africa’s record appearance holders at the World Cup, Cameroon didn’t have it easy in qualifying either. Despite finishing top of a group containing Cote d’Ivoire, the nature of African qualifying meant they had to undertake a further two-legged play-off. A 124th minute goal, courtesy of Karl Toko-Ekambi against Algeria puts Cameroon on a flight to Qatar. Led by the country’s highest capped player, Rigobert Song, Cameroon are a hard working outfit, and will look to play with plenty of width if they are to utilise their best players. With a growing reputation in their native homeland, Cameroon will certainly be no pushovers this year.
Player to watch: Bryan Mbeumo.
A forward currently flying high at Brentford, Mbeumo only has 2 international caps to his name, but with his 3 goals and sole assist propelling Brentford into the top half of the Premier league, Mbeumo will be looking to Oliver Ntcham and Zambo Anguissa to provide him with the goals if Cameroon have any chance of advancing to the knockout round. With pace out on the left flank and the ability to double as a striker, don’t be surprised if Mbeumo manages to test goalkeepers sufficiently enough to get on the scoresheet in Qatar.
How it’ll go.
Anything less than 7 points would mean alarm bells for Brazilian fans who should be winning this group. Given that Serbia have a variety of options both in attack and the midfield to call upon, if they can pull together as a unit, I fancy them as serious dark horses. Switzerland as a result will miss out, putting an end to recent tournament successes, as will Cameroon, who have had a rocky set of results in 2022.