We’ve got the favourites and the dark horses in one group, with a very able Switzerland in the wings and a Cameroonian bunch with a habit of finding the net – Group G should make perfect viewing for a neutral.
Make a note of the kick-off times; you may want to skip work for what Group G has to offer. Any excuse to watch Brazil, right?
The Samba Boys’ 17 qualifying matches produced a 2.65 points per90 average. To put that into perspective, only Argentina managed a figure above 2.00 out of the other nine participating CONMEBOL nations.
Fourteen wins, including all eight home outings, three draws, and zero defeats, populate Brazil’s qualification campaign. As a result, A Seleção are coming into the World Cup in some style, a tournament that should have the European teams struggling with the climate. With that in mind, coupled with Brazilian form and the head-turning personnel in each position, there’s no wonder Brazil are favourites to win the lot.
Neymar’s eight strikes (+ 8 assists) and Richarlison’s six ensured the two players finished in the top ten goal scorers in South America. Only Marcelo Moreno (10) of Bolivia pipped Neymar en route to clinching a spot on the plane to Qatar.
Alongside Neymar and Richarlison, Tite has a wealth of riches to choose from in forward areas, a trait often laid at the door of the Brazilian national team. Vinícius Júnior, Gabriel Jesus, Rodrygo, Raphinha, Martinelli, Antony, Cunha and Roberto Frimino – not all of which will make Qatar. It’s hard to believe that players of that kind of pedigree will likely miss out on selection.
That kind of talent has proved too strong in World Cup group stages. The Brazilians are unbeaten in their previous 15 World Cup group matches (W12/D3). So, one should anticipate an uphill battle for those who share Group G as Tite’s Brazil locks its sights on the final.
Will it be a record sixth World Cup win for the South Americans? Well, it’s shaping up that way.
Cameroon are African World Cup royalty. The stats don’t lie – the Cameroonians have played more matches (23) than any other African side. This will be their eighth World Cup, as freshly appointed Rigobert Song’s new side seeks to do better than in the recent past.
Bragging a record a little different to Brazil in the group stages, Cameroon has lost each of their last seven games at the World Cup. Only Mexico (9) have fallen to defeat in more successive matches – a stretch that ended in 2014.
Something that will stand them in good stead is goals. They came in abundance (14) in the recent Africa Cup of Nations – more than any other competing team. In World Cup qualification, Cameroon hit the loftiest goal tally in a group comprising Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Malawi.
It was one of CAF’s qualification groups where two big nations shared the footballing landscape. Côte d’Ivoire would have fancied their chances of progression just as much as Cameroon, though 15 points secured proved out of reach (13 points) for Côte d’Ivoire’s star-studded squad.
The play-off decider versus Algeria boiled down to the final seconds in extra time. It was the 124th minute, to be precise, when Karl Toko Ekambi sent his nation into raptures with a strike that would see Cameroon progress on away goals.
Choupo-Moting, Aboubakar, and Ekambi present a level of firepower for Cameroon that could see them cause an upset in matches at the World Cup. Of course, they’ll need to take their opportunities when they come, but don’t be shocked if the Africans make life uncomfortable for opposing teams.
Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahović is a strike pairing to give defenders nightmares for weeks on end. Perhaps that’s something that Thiago Silva and Fabian Schar are dealing with in the run-up to their trip to Qatar.
Either way, Serbia have enough to upset the apple cart in Group G, with the Serbia vs Switzerland fixture set to be the biggest for either country for a long time. You’ve got to pick your battles at the World Cup, and Brazil may be out of reach in terms of three points. But the remaining two nations are winnable. The remaining two countries could grant you safe passage to the knockout stages in Qatar if you play your cards right.
Overlooking Memphis Depay and Harry Kane (12), Aleksandar Mitrović’s eight goals in eight qualifying matches saw him outscore all other European participating personnel. The Fulham marksman has also carried his form into the Premier League, hurtling towards his highest-ever Premier League goals return in the process.
Whilst finding the net with regularity, Mitrović hit tall shot averages – the 5.28 shots per90 figure was pipped by only three players to have featured in more than 5.0 90s: Cristiano Ronaldo, Erling Haaland, and Memphis Depay. Not the worst company in the world. Dušan Vlahović’s 4.43 attempts per90 had him 9th in Europe’s top ten most fanciful with their shooting boots.
This was the first time Serbia remained unbeaten in a qualifying period, winning six and drawing twice. They were a force to be reckoned with, ensuring Portugal would only have enough points to take the play-off route. In the two Holywood matches against the top two, the best the Portuguese could do was a 2-2 draw in Serbia before Mitrovic’s 90th-minute goal sealed top spot for Serbia on the final day.
This is not a top-heavy squad, either. It’s not Mitrović and Vlahović or bust. Instead, Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić will operate along the spine of the midfield, while Nikola Milenković of Fiorentina sits behind. In addition, each of Luka Jović and Filip Kostić have the qualities to get into the majority of World Cup nation’s squads – two players that now take a backseat when considering Serbia’s fruitful options.
If there’s to be a dark horse in this tournament, it’ll be Serbian.
Outperforming Italy to the top of World Cup qualification took some doing, even if the Italians didn’t cover themselves in glory in the play-off stages. Switzerland only shipped two goals from eight games in qualifying – the fewest goals conceded in Europe.
The two strikes came in a 1-1 draw with Italy and a 1-3 in Bulgaria. Rarely were the Swiss threatened, a pretty straightforward jaunt towards World Cup football, in fact.
Switzerland will have a new manager in the dugout, Murat Yakin. The new head coach conceded one goal and remained unbeaten in his six games in charge in the qualification stages.
The bookmaker’s price Serbia and Switzerland closely in terms of progression from the group, with the Swiss having the upper hand ever so slightly. Murat Yakin’s Swiss side can be backed at odds-against in some places, implying Serbia may be the value pick to qualify in Group G.
Unlike the Serbs, goals were shared around by Switzerland in qualifying. A total of twelve players registered a goal in Swiss colours, with Breel Embolo leading the way with three. Not possessing that one striker with an eye for goal is a concern for Switzerland, a worry not shared amongst the three sides they’ll face in the group stages.
Creatively, Xherdan Shaqiri should take the role of the most influential for Switzerland, and has done for several years. The former Liverpool winger has been involved in 43% of Switzerland’s 23 goals in the previous four major tournaments.
He’s the one player that makes things tick, equipped with an eye for goal and a defence-splitting pass. Shaqiri laid on three assists throughout the qualification phase and found the net once. In addition, the 3.7 Key Passes a game will have the Chicago Fire man pencilled in as one to watch for opposing teams.
Brazil are 1/14 to qualify from the group, no real shock there. And they’re just 4/11 to end up winning it. They’re 15/8 to win all three group matches which looks strong. It’s not a breeze but they’ll certainly be looking at three points from each of those opponents.
They waltzed through World Cup qualifying and never looked like losing. They won 14 out of 17 qualifiers so a match in which they dropped points became a rarity. They scored a staggering 40 goals in qualifying which was an average of 2.35 per game.
Serbia are a darkhorse for sure, but when you look at Brazil it’s enough to make your mouth water. Thinking about the likes of Neymar, Vinicius, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Bruno Guimaraes. The depth is insane and they should beat the three nations in front of them.
Group G – Brazil to win all three group matches
How and where to watch each match:
SUI vs CAM – 24th November – 10:00 (ITV)
BRA vs SER – 24th November – 19:00 (BBC One)
CAM vs SER – 28th November – 10:00 (ITV)
BRA vs SUI – 28th November – 16:00 (ITV)
CAM vs BRA – 2nd December – 19:00 (ITV)
SER vs SUI – 2nd December – 19:00 (ITV)