Switzerland’s opening World Cup game against Cameroon appears to be a must-win opportunity in a difficult group. With Brazil and Serbia also in Group G, taking three points in the early afternoon heat on Thursday looks like a must-win for each team.
Cameroon’s task is made more difficult by their recent World Cup form, having been swept aside in three straight losses in each of their previous two appearances, in 2014 and 2010.
During that time, the Indomitable Lions have scored fewer goals as a team on the world’s biggest stage than a single Swiss player, Xherdan Shaqiri.
Since his World Cup debut as a teenager in 2010, the score has been 4-3 in Shaqiri’s favour. Shaqiri, now 31 and playing in the MLS with the Chicago Fire, returns to the tournament for the fourth time as a playmaker, equaling a Swiss record. In-form Monaco forward Breel Embolo is more likely to score.
Cameroon’s star forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, 33, arrives in his third World Cup in good form for Bayern Munich and looking for his first career World Cup goal.
Choupo-Moting’s 11 goals in all competitions this season have helped Bayern reclaim first place in the Bundesliga following the departure of Robert Lewandowski. Cameroon and Switzerland both have solid results at their continental championships in the last 18 months, albeit under different coaches.
Last year, the Swiss ended a streak of being eliminated in the round of 16 in major tournaments by defeating France on penalties after a 3-3 tie.
After losing another shootout to Spain in the quarterfinals, coach Vladimir Petkovic capitalized on his rising reputation seven years after joining Bordeaux. Within a few months, he was fired.
Murat Yakin, a 49-cap central defender, was hired after previously coaching a Swiss second-tier club. He made an immediate impression by leading the team to first place in a World Cup qualifying group, ahead of European champion Italy. Cameroon began the year by reaching the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations, losing on penalties to Egypt, before firing Portuguese coach Toni Conceiço.
Cameroon’s greatest player and now federation president, Samuel Eto’o, turned to his long-time former teammate Rigobert Song, who had a patchy record of success coaching within the national team setup.
Cameroon last won a World Cup game 20 years ago in Japan against Saudi Arabia, with Song as captain and Eto’o scoring the only goal.