Fan favourite Brazil should have little trouble negotiating its way to the top of this group. It enters the tournament in great form, enjoying a 17-match unbeaten run in the CONMEBOL qualification round.
In an odd coincidence, this group is almost identical to Group E from the 2018 World Cup. Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia once again find themselves bunched together, while Cameroon is the fourth team, instead of Costa Rica.
In the previous edition, it was Brazil and Switzerland which progressed to the knockout rounds. Fan favourite Brazil should have little trouble negotiating its way to the top of this group. Brazil’s title-run in the 2002 World Cup was the last time a non-European side won the mega event.
With Brazil the standout side, the true race lies in capturing second place and the resulting knockout spot. Given the high stakes on offer, Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon can be expected to take a safety first approach, where the onus will be on keeping it tight on defence. Their best bet will be to nick a few match-winning goals on counter-attacks and sneak into the knockouts.
Brazil boasts of a squad packed with talent, and is led by an experienced head coach in Tite. In the past, Brazil has relied heavily on Neymar, to mixed results.
This time Neymar can count Vinicius Junior to provide world-class support in attack. Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus are also available in the event Brazil needs reinforcements up front.
In midfield, Liverpool’s Fabinho and the Manchester United duo of Casemiro and Fred will call the shots.
Tite might have a trumpcard in Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes, who despite just eight international appearances, might get the nod for the attacking midfilelder’s slot, tasked with creating scoring opportunities.
Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, former teammates at Paris SaintGermain, form the core of the defence. Tite has Liverpool’s Alisson Becker and Manchester City’s Ederson as goalkeepers. Alisson and Ederson are among the best custodians in the tournament, with the former likely to edge out his compatriot in the playing XI.
Tite’s men look poised to improve on their showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where the side lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals.
As an independent nation, Serbia has competed in the World Cup twice (2010 and 2018). On both occasions, the team failed to progress beyond the group stage.
Serbia counts on attacking prowess, in the form of Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Luka Jovic, to correct a poor World Cup record.
High expectations are placed on Dusan Vlahovic, who did well in Serbia’s qualifying campaign.
Vlahovic is among the best young players in Europe, and signed a deal with Juventus early this year.
Mitrovic, the country’s all-time leading goalscorer, holds the key to Serbia’s fortunes. Mitrovic will be high on confidence, having scored 43 goals to power Fulham to the 2021-22Championship title. Tadic will be the playmaker in a 4312 formation roaming freely to dictate play and load the gun for the forwards to shoot.
The defence, which kept just one clean sheet in the qualifiers, is a weakness. Manager Dragan Stojkovic helmed an otherwise fine European qualification run, where the side finished on top of Group A ahead of Portugal.
Captain Granit Xhaka and vicecaptain Xherdan Shaqiri are the big names expected to do big things at the World Cup.
Arsenal’s Xhaka will pull the strings in midfield, while Shaqiri can find the net at crucial junctures. In the national team, Xhaka could feature in a more advanced role. Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler can cover for Xhaka when the latter surges forward.
Murat Yakin has built a reputation as an attackminded manager, in contrast to his conservative predecessor Vladimir Petkovic.
Switzerland, however, found success under Petkovic, reaching the round of 16 in the previous World Cup and the quarterfinals of EURO 2020.
At the back, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yann Sommer has been a rock. Sommer has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.
Switzerland’s last best showing came in the 1954 FIFA World Cup, where the host made a quarterfinal run. With a bit of luck, Switzerland can hope to match that feat.
Cameroon sticks out as the weakest team in this group. After that inspiring quarterfinal finish at the 1990 World Cup, the side has barely made a mark.
The African nation is adept in attack. Midfielder AndreFrank Zambo Anguissa has come good for Napoli this season, while Eric Maxim ChoupoMoting and Vincent Aboubakar form a good striking partnership.
Aboubakar finished as the top goalscorer in the recent Africa Cup of Nations. The inclusion of Bryan Mbeumo — one of the several players with dual nationalities in the team — and the ending of Nicolas Nkoulou’S self-imposed five year exile from the national squad has bolstered the Indomitable Lions ahead of the tournament.
The defence is brittle, save for experienced Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana. Manager Rigobert Song, who took the job in February, will have to inspire his players to punch above their weight. For a start, the unit will be desperate to record a first World Cup win since 2002.