World Cup Predictions – Group G: Samba, Tension, and Quality

November 17, 2022


Group G at the World Cup will see some very familiar foes to battle for the spots leading to the knockout stages. Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland were put against each other four years ago in Russia and are now in the same bowl again. The only difference is Cameroon, in the place of Costa Rica.

Brazil

The outcome of a World Cup is never easy to call in advance, but going into the event, Brazil are always considered among the top favourites to lift the trophy and with very good reason. The country of coffee and Samba continues to produce players of incredible talents who regularly go on to dazzle the world playing for the biggest clubs, and those who have been selected to represent it in Qatar this year match this description perfectly; well, most of them do, anyway.

Embed from Getty Images

Such is the quality and the number of Brazilian players who deserve to be at the World Cup that there are always those who end up disappointed. This time around, the most notable name among them is Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, who has been a rare bright spot in a rather underwhelming season for the Merseysiders so far. A player of special characteristics, many believe the 31-year-old should’ve been called up, at least in the place of Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison, whose numbers on the pitch this term look extremely pale by comparison. In fact, Firmino has individually done better than Arsenal star Gabriel Jesus too, but the supporters of the Selecao have no option but to trust coach Tite, and hope that there actually is something the 61-year-old tactician has seen in training or in previous matches that should justify his decision in this matter.

Embed from Getty Images

Be that as it may, Brazil are still strong favourites to finish top of Group G. There is probably more individual quality in their ranks than in the other three squads put together, with all due respect to all of them, and Tite has been very successful in getting such stars to work hard together.

The full Brazil squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson Becker (Liverpool), Ederson Moraes (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras);
Defenders: Dani Alves (UNAM), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (PSG), Danilo (Juventus), Alex Telles (Sevilla), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gleison Bremer (Juventus);
Midfielders: Casemiro (Manchester United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Fred (Manchester United), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo);
Forwards: Neymar (PSG), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Antony (Manchester United), Richarlison (Tottenham Hotspur), Raphinha (Barcelona), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Pedro (Flamengo).

Serbia or Switzerland?

There was plenty of controversy when Switzerland and Serbia played against each other in 2018, some strictly football-related, and some that had nothing to do with the sport. Serbia had a strong penalty claim waved away by German referee Felix Brych, who simply didn’t see anything wrong with the way Swiss defenders Fabian Schar and Stephan Lichtsteiner rugby-tackled Aleksandar Mitrovic to the ground on the edge of six yards, stopping the powerful striker from heading goalwards.

But far greater controversy surrounded the goals scored by Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri to overturn Serbia’s lead and secure the vital three points for their team. Being of Albanian descent and originating from Kosovo, still not recognized as an independent country by Serbia and a number of other countries around the globe, they celebrated by displaying an Albanian hand gesture in the faces of the Serbian supporters. Much like Schar and Lichtsteiner by the referee, they were let off the hook later as FIFA qualified their offence as unsportsmanlike behaviour and handed them symbolic fines, rather than political provocation, which would’ve meant automatic suspension and ruled them out for the remainder of the tournament.

Serbia will unlikely see this match as an opportunity for some kind of revenge for the injustices, and the Swiss FA has reportedly warned their players of Albanian descent not to do anything of the sort again or face being thrown off the national team indefinitely; both Xhaka and Shaqiri are believed to have given their word that they wouldn’t. It is to be hoped that this clash of these two teams, both boasting plenty of quality in their respective ranks, will be remembered for its football and nothing else.

Embed from Getty Images

And as for the football, Serbia seems to be on the rise. They qualified for the World Cup by finishing ahead of Portugal in their group, beating the Euro 2016 winners at their own turf in Lisbon as Ajax captain Dusan Tadic cancelled out Renato Sanches’s early opener, and Mitrovic finding the back of the net for a last-gasp winner. Tadic and Mitrovic are still the main threat going forward, but there are also the likes of Juventus stars Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic to consider, as well as Fiorentina striker Luka Jovic.

The full Serbia squad:

Goalkeepers: Marko Dmitrovic (Sevilla), Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino), Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca);
Defenders: Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe), Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Filip Mladenovic (Legia Warsaw), Srdjan Babic (Almeria), Strahinja Erakovic (Red Star Belgrade);
Midfielders: Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Filip Duricic (Sampdoria), Nemanja Radonjic (Torino), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Sasa Lukic (Torino), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Uros Racic (Braga), Ivan Ilic (Hellas Verona), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona);
Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Luka Jovic (Fiorentina), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus).

At Euro 2020, Switzerland showed that they had the quality to fight against the best. They were certainly among the positive surprises of the tournament last year, with a fantastic goalkeeper, defenders of steel, creative midfielders and dangerous forwards. It remains to be seen, however, how much of that quality they’ve managed to preserve, and whether they’ll be ready to beat off Serbia’s challenge for the second place in the group.

The full Switzerland squad:

Goalkeepers: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Gregor Kobel (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Kohn (Red Bull Salzburg), Jonas Omlin (Montpellier);
Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Manchester City), Eray Comert (Valencia), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Ricardo Rodriguez (Torino), Fabian Schar (Newcastle United), Sylvan Widmer (Mainz 05);
Midfielders: Michel Aebischer (Bologna), Edimilson Fernandes (Mainz 05), Fabian Frei (Basel), Remo Freuler (Nottingham Forest), Ardon Jashari (Luzern), Noah Okafor (Red Bull Salzburg), Fabian Rieder (Young Boys), Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago Fire), Djibril Sow (Eintracht Frankfurt), Renato Steffen (Lugano), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Denis Zakaria (Chelsea);
Forwards: Breel Embolo (Monaco), Christian Fassnacht (Young Boys), Haris Seferovic (Galatasaray), Reuben Vargas (FC Augsburg).

What about Cameroon?

It also remains to be seen whether Cameroon can step into the fray and make themselves felt as a tremor in the group. Looking at the list of the names selected by coach Rigobert Song, they certainly shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, even though they do seem to be outsiders given the strength of the other teams. The ones that will be drawing the most attention going into the tournament will be Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, and the two players who provided goals at the last edition of the African Cup of Nations, Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko Ekambi. Brenford’s Bryan Mbeumo should not be forgotten either, nor should Napoli midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

But quite apart from the quality players in their ranks, Song is said to be inspiring his players to extreme levels, having suffered brain aneurysm and spent two days in a coma back in 2016. The 46-year-old former Liverpool defender is also believed to have taken the role on with some reluctance, but the players admire him very much. 

Cameroon did not qualify for the World Cup in Russia four years ago, and in 2014 in Brazil, they finished bottom of Group A, beaten by Brazil, Mexico and Croatia. Therefore, they will probably see Qatar as a good opportunity to improve their reputation on the world stage by performing well against very tough opponents.

Embed from Getty Images

The full Cameroon squad:

Goalkeepers: Simon Ngapandouetnbu (Marseille), Devis Epassy (Abha), Andre Onana (Inter Milan);
Defenders: Nicolas Nkoulou (Aris), Enzo Ebosse (Udinese), Oumar Gonzalez (Ajaccio), Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders), Olivier Mbaizo (Philadelphia Union), Collins Fai (Al-Tai), Jean-Charles Castelletto (Nantes), Christopher Wooh (Rennes), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli), Jerome Ngom Mbekeli (APEJES de Mfou), Gael Ondoua (Hannover), Samuel Gouet (Mechelen), Pierre Kunde (Olympiacos), Martin Hongla (Hellas Verona), Olivier Ntcham (Swansea);
Forwards: Vincent Aboubakar (Al-Nassr), Souaibou Marou (Coton Sport), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich), Christian Bassogog (Shanghai Shenhua), Moumi Ngamaleu (Dynamo Moscow), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (Besiktas), Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford), Jean-Pierre Nsame (Young Boys), Karl Toko Ekambi (Olympique Lyon), Moumi Ngamaleu (Dynamo Moscow).