Everything you need to know about Group G at the World Cup


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There’s a clear favorite in Group G, and it’s the nation that has spent the better part of this year atop FIFA’s rankings. Brazil is on the hunt for its sixth World Cup and has a deep, experienced squad ready to compete for it. Who will challenge the Brazilians for the group’s other spot in the knockout stages? Switzerland is fresh off a memorable run at Euro 2020 and has risen all the way to No. 15 in the world. Serbia was a surprise qualifier from a crowded pot of European teams, and Cameroon has a history of making runs on the sport’s biggest stage.

Here’s a closer look at Group G, which kicks off Nov. 24 as Switzerland faces Cameroon and Brazil takes on Serbia.

This year marks exactly two decades since Brazil last lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy. The country known for spearheading the “Jogo Bonito” — the “Beautiful Game,” a phrase popularized by Brazilian great Pelé — won its fifth World Cup in 2002 but hasn’t reached the tournament’s final in the past four editions. With perhaps the deepest squad in the entire field and an experienced manager at the helm, top-ranked Brazil is expected to arrive in Qatar as one of the favorites to win it all.


Brazil is the winner of the most World Cups with five titles out of seven total trips to the final.

Brazil 3, Czechoslovakia 1

Brazil 0 (3), Italy 0 (2)

Brazil is the winner of the most World Cups with five titles out of seven total trips to the final.

Brazil 3, Czechoslovakia 1

Brazil 0 (3), Italy 0 (2)

Brazil is the winner of the most World Cups with five titles out of seven total trips to the final.

Brazil 3,

Czechoslovakia 1

Brazil 0 (3),

Italy 0 (2)

It’d be hard for any of the other 31 sides in the World Cup to match Brazil’s current run of form: “A Seleção” has won or drawn 28 of its past 29 matches, dating back to 2019. The lone loss came in last summer’s Copa América final to rival Argentina, a 1-0 defeat at the famous Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.

Since that defeat in July 2021, Tite’s Brazil squad swept through CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying campaign, earning the most points by any South American team since 2002. It won 14 of its 17 matches — its first game against Argentina was called off after Brazilian health officials took the field and attempted to arrest four Argentine players — and kept a near airtight defense, conceding only one goal at home.

There are so many Brazilian players getting quality minutes in the world’s top leagues that it’s hard to pick out just a few names to spotlight. A number of veterans return from previous World Cup squads, from Chelsea’s Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos on the back line to Liverpool’s Fabinho and Manchester United’s Casemiro in the midfield. Vinícius Júnior, a 22-year-old winger, was the star of last year’s Champions League final for Real Madrid. Brazil also owns the enviable position of having two world-class goalkeepers on its side: Liverpool’s Alisson is the likely starter, but Manchester City’s Ederson is also available for selection.


Neymar

30 years old,

São Paulo, Brazil

Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar

30 years old, São Paulo, Brazil

Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar

30 years old, São Paulo, Brazil

Paris Saint-Germain

In a sport known for its stars, Neymar remains one of its biggest. Since his debut as a teenager, he has grown into one of the world’s most popular athletes and is still the most expensive player in soccer history after his $263 million move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing — he helped lead Brazil to its first Olympic gold at Rio 2016 but also has a predilection for over-the-top reactions and the occasional dramatic dive.

That said, he’s still a captivating attacker with the ability to transform games: He was Brazil’s leading scorer in qualifying with eight goals and is already the nation’s second-leading all-time scorer, trailing only the great Pelé.

Serbia has reached three of the past four World Cups — in 2006, 2010 and 2018 — but has yet to advance out of the group stage in that stretch. It has played the giant-beater before (defeating Germany, 1-0, in South Africa) and has a squad full of players plying their trades in Europe’s top five leagues, but it is still looking to make its big breakthrough at a major tournament.


Qatar will be its third appearance in a World Cup as Serbia.

Qatar will be its third appearance in a World Cup as Serbia.

Qatar will be its third appearance in a World Cup as Serbia.

In the 14 years it has played under a fully independent flag, Serbia has reached the World Cup twice but has yet to win more than one game in the group stage. Its failed European Championship qualifying campaign in 2020 marked a moment for change — the Serbs lost to Scotland in a playoff penalty shootout, making them the continent’s only squad at this World Cup that wasn’t at Euro 2020. Ljubisa Tumbakovic was sacked and replaced by national team hero Dragan Stojkovic, a star for Yugoslavia at the 1990 and 1998 World Cups.

Serbia’s hopes of qualifying directly for Qatar came down to a final UEFA Group A match in November 2021 against superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in Lisbon. It ended in thrilling fashion for the Serbs: After conceding in the second minute, they rallied to score in the 33rd minute and kept Portugal away from goal for the rest of regular time. Aleksandar Mitrovic, the country’s all-time leading scorer, found the emotional winner in the 90th minute to seal Serbia’s place at the World Cup.


Coach

Dragan Stojkovic

57 years old

The Serbians are likely to feature a mix of experienced and young talent in Qatar. Captain Dusan Tadic (Ajax) and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) are fixtures in the national team’s midfield. Fiorentina center back Nikola Milenkovic is one of more than 10 players in the projected squad who play in Italy’s Serie A. Also in that category is 22-year-old striker Dusan Vlahovic, who has yet to play in a major international tournament but had four goals in Serbia’s qualifying campaign and was one of the most sought-after young players in Europe before signing with Juventus in January.


Aleksandar Mitrovic

28 years old, Smederevo, Serbia

Fulham

Aleksandar Mitrovic

28 years old, Smederevo, Serbia

Fulham

Aleksandar Mitrovic

28 years old, Smederevo, Serbia

Fulham

Between Vlahovic and Mitrovic, Serbia has no shortage of exciting scoring talent. Mitrovic is back in the Premier League with Fulham after a fantastic 2021-22 season — he finished the campaign with 43 goals, the most by any player in England’s modern era. That high-scoring form tends to carry over to Mitrovic’s role with the national team: His eight goals in qualifying tied for the third-most of any player across UEFA’s 10 groups, and he scored four times in Serbia’s Nations League games in September.

Switzerland was the surprise of last summer’s European Championship. The country that hadn’t won a knockout game in a major tournament since 1938 finally did so in exciting fashion: rallying from a two-goal deficit to beat defending World Cup champion France on penalties, then taking Spain to a shootout in the quarterfinals. It’ll try to replicate some of that magic in Qatar.


Switzerland

in the World Cup

Qatar will be Switzerland’s 12th appearance of in a World Cup; it qualified for each of the past five tournaments.

Switzerland

in the World Cup

Qatar will be Switzerland’s 12th appearance of in a World Cup; it qualified for each of the past five tournaments.

Switzerland

in the World Cup

Qatar will be Switzerland’s 12th appearance of in a World Cup; it qualified for each of the past five tournaments.

The Swiss were tournament mainstays in the World Cup’s early editions but have mostly taken a back seat on the global stage in recent decades. In the past five years, though, they had strong results in major tournaments under Vladimir Petkovic: the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup, the semifinal of the 2019 UEFA Nations League, a first-ever Euro quarterfinal in 2021. Petkovic left the national team in July 2021 and was replaced by Murat Yakin.

This year, Switzerland was the victor of one of the most entertaining qualifying groups in Europe. It finished atop Group C, drawing twice with Alpine rival Italy and conceding only twice in eight games. Its World Cup hopes rested on a result between Northern Ireland and Italy in November 2021, and when the former earned a goalless draw — thus forcing the defending European champion to an ill-fated playoff — Yakin sent 20 pounds of Swiss chocolate to Northern Ireland’s federation as a gesture of thanks.


Coach

Murat Yakin

48 years old

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka was a key scorer for Switzerland at both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, while Breel Embolo (Monaco) led the way with three goals during this qualifying campaign. Striker Haris Seferovic, currently at Galatasaray in Turkey, had three goals for the Swiss at Euro 2020. Yann Sommer had a summer to remember at that tournament, saving a penalty by France’s Kylian Mbappé in the round of 16 and then recording eight saves in extra time alone against Spain in the quarterfinal. In August, he set a Bundesliga record with a remarkable 19 stops in one match for Borussia Monchengladbach.


Xherdan Shaqiri

31 years old, Gjilan, Kosovo

Chicago Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri

31 years old, Gjilan, Kosovo

Chicago Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri

31 years old, Gjilan, Kosovo

Chicago Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri was responsible for one of the most talked-about goals of the 2018 World Cup: His 90th-minute winner gave the Swiss an exciting 2-1 win over Serbia in the group stage. (Shaqiri, an ethnic Albanian, made as many headlines for his celebration as the goal itself, and it’s worth noting that he’ll face Serbia in the group stage again this year.) Since then, Shaqiri has won a Champions League title with Liverpool and moved to the Chicago Fire in MLS as one of the league’s highest-paid stars. He was a key figure in Switzerland’s attack in World Cup qualifying and figures to be again in Qatar.

The Indomitable Lions have an impressive history when it comes to reaching soccer’s biggest stage: They’ve qualified for the World Cup eight times, the most of any African nation, and took England to extra time in a famous quarterfinal at Italy 1990. There’s no easy road out of the group into the knockout stage this year, but there can’t really be any counting out a team that reached Qatar in the most spectacular of fashions.


Cameroon

in the World Cup

Cameroon was part of France until the 1962 World Cup. Since then, its best result was reaching the quarterfinals at Italy 1990.

Cameroon

in the World Cup

Cameroon was part of France until the 1962 World Cup. Since then, its best result was reaching the quarterfinals at Italy 1990.

Cameroon

in the World Cup

Cameroon was part of France until the 1962 World Cup. Since then, its best result was reaching the quarterfinals at Italy 1990.

Cameroon’s winding road to qualifying for the World Cup started in February. Hosting the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 1972, the country lost to Egypt on penalties in the semifinal but won a shootout against Burkina Faso in the ensuing third-place match. That proved to be the final game in charge for Toni Conceição, who had managed Cameroon for nearly three years but reportedly had conflicts with some of the team’s top players.

Rigobert Song, a former national team captain, took over and in March helped the squad clinch its place in Qatar with a dramatic finish in the final round of qualifying. After Algeria won the first leg, 1-0, in Cameroon, the Indomitable Lions went on the road and quickly found an away goal of their own. (In World Cup qualifying, FIFA’s rule on away goals still applies.) With the aggregate score line even, Algeria scored in the 118th minute and seemed bound for Qatar — until Karl Toko Ekambi found the back of the net in the final minute of stoppage time.


Coach

Rigobert Song

46 years old

Cameroon doesn’t have a long list of European stars, but it has a solid mix of players in some of the continent’s top leagues. Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting lined up for Cameroon at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Captain Vincent Aboubakar moved to the Saudi Premier League after a six-year stint in Europe but is still in strong form for his national team: His eight goals were the most of any African player at this year’s Cup of Nations. Toko Ekambi, who plays for Lyon in France’s Ligue 1, had a standout tournament on his home soil as well, scoring five goals across three matches.


André Onana

26 years old, Nkol Ngok, Cameroon

Inter Milan

André Onana

26 years old, Nkol Ngok, Cameroon

Inter Milan

André Onana

26 years old, Nkol Ngok, Cameroon

Inter Milan

Goalkeeper André Onana made his international debut as a 20-year-old and has steadily become one of Cameroon’s top players. At 26, he already has three Dutch league titles and starts in a number of important European matches — including a Europa League final and the Champions League semifinals — under his belt after five full seasons at Ajax. He missed the majority of the last season after being banned nine months by UEFA for taking an illegal substance, but he moved to Inter Milan (the Italian club at which Cameroonian legend and current federation president Samuel Eto’o once starred) this past summer.





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