Who: Switzerland versus Cameroon, Group G
Wo: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Thursday, November 24, 2022, at 1:00 PM (10:00 AM GMT)
FIFA-Rangliste: Schweiz (15), Kamerun (43)
Redemption is the dominant theme in this opening Group G game.
Swiss captain Granit Xhaka was one of Arsenal’s outstanding players in the Premier League this season. Positioned higher on the pitch this season, he has already scored more goals this season (4) than in the previous three combined. Once a lightning rod of criticism for Arsenal fans, the midfielder’s name is now routinely sung by the fan community.
Xhaka’s success in this advanced role should come as no surprise, as he always worked there for Switzerland. In recent years, his performance for Switzerland has always been significantly better than those of his club. He was decisively involved in their run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 last year, where they famously defeated France in the round of 16.
This time, Swiss fans hope that Xhaka can carry its club form into the World Cup. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the tables turning.
Granit Xhaka was presented to the whole world in a building in Qatar. What a relief he has this year. #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/0vag0nghwn
— ArsenHolic 🇰🇪 (@Dancomunyao) November 19, 2022
But if there’s one player this season who could eclipse Xhaka’s Redemption Arch, it might be Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting from Cameroon.
The 33-year-old striker was often a figure of ridicule among fans who couldn’t understand how a player who had been relegated to the Premier League with Stoke City played for European giants like Paris Saint-Germain and now Bayern Munich.
Chuopo-Moting’s role in these two clubs was often limited to late substitute appearances. But at FC Bayern, he has stepped out of the shadows this season to fill the gap left by Robert Lewandowski’s departure over the summer.
He scored 11 goals in all competitions, the joint second-highest goal with Sadio Mane for Bayern this season. In the Bundesliga, he has on average more than one goal per game this year.
Once a punchline, Chuopo-Moting is now a protagonist in this Bayern team. It is expected that he will play the same role again for Cameroon at the World Cup.
“It’s true that Eric is in the best shape of his career,” Cameroon defender Jean-Charles Castelletto said in an interview with SNTV. “He will certainly be an important player for Cameroon. We all need to be inspired by him to do the best we can.”
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Switzerland and Cameroon were also on a similar path last year.
First of all, they both dramatically secured qualification for the World Cup. Switzerland led European champions Italy in the penultimate qualifying game in Rome in November last year with a 1-1 draw, with Italian midfielder Jorginho missing a penalty in the 90th minute. In their last group game, they defeated Bulgaria and qualified for the tournament ahead of Italy.
Cameroon also needed a late winner in extra time in its last qualifying game against Algeria, in which the Indomitable Lions secured fifth and last place for African teams at the World Cup.
Both showed strong performances in their last appearance at a major tournament. Switzerland reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 for the first time in its history last year and was agonizingly close to reaching the semi-finals. She lost to Spain on penalties.
Cameroon reached the African Cup of Nations semi-finals earlier this year, where they were knocked out by Egypt on penalties.
Interestingly enough, the two teams have never played against each other. Now they’re going to meet on the biggest stage of all.