from HUSSEIN HUSSAIN in Doha, Qatar
DOHA, (CAJ News) – TWO of Africa’s history makers at the World Cup – Cameroon and Ghana – will be in action in Qatar on Thursday as proceedings start in Groups G and H.
Both back after missing out on Russia 2018, they face European opposition, Switzerland and Portugal, respectively.
The first match of the day pits the Indomitable Lions and the Swiss at the Al Janoub Stadium Stadium in Al Wakrah.
The Group G encounter will be the first meeting between the duo in the sport.
History is heavily stacked against the Central African side as far as opening matches in football’s prime competition are concerned.
Currently seventh in Africa and 43rd in the world, Cameroon have won one opener in their last seven appearances, drawing four and losing two. In their last 11 appearances, the Swiss have won five, drawn three and lost three on the opening day.
For Cameroon, that sole victory is none other than the 1-0 roar over then-defending champions, Argentina, at Italia 90, courtesy of 67th minute strike by François Omam-Biyik at the San Siro.
At that tournament, they became the first African side to reach the quarterfinals at the World Cup, a feat to be emulated only by Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
Giant strikers Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar will put to test the robust defence of the Swiss Rossocrociati (Red Crosses), ranked 15th globally.
Coach Rigobert Song’s pride of lions will also be aiming to win Cameroon’s first match at the World Cup since the 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Korea/Japan 2002.
Song captained the side that day. Samuel Eto’o, who scored the 66th winner at the Saitama Stadium, is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation.
In the other Group G match on Thursday, the illustrious Brazil will take on Serbia in a bid to add a sixth World Cup trophy to their unmatched cabinet and another star atop that shield-shaped badge.
Ranked highest in the world, Brazil’s A Seleção (The National Team) are always the tournament favourites and are tipped to secure maximum points against the The Eagles at the Lusail Stadium.
Serbia are 21st. Even single draw for them from this mismatch with the South Americans will be a shock of monumental proportions.
Group H opens with a clash featuring two-time winners Uruguay and South Korea at the Education City Stadium.
By virtue of their higher ranking (14th), Uruguay’s La Celeste (The Sky Blue) will be keen to school the Asian Tigers, who are ranked 28th.
Despised for an ugly reputation of doing whatever it takes to win, the Uruguayans could learn a bitter lesson if they underestimate the Koreans.
Ghana’s Black Stars and the Os Navegadores (The Navigators) of Portugal will contest the other group match at the Stadium 974 in the capital, Doha.
Coach Nana Otto Addo’s side, ranked 11th in Africa and 61st in the world, will be seeking a first World Cup victory since beating the United States at South Africa 2010.
The last time the two teams met, at Brazil 2014, ninth-ranked Portugal won 2-1 via a late winner by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Playing in their fourth tournament, the West Africans could exploit the mini turbulence in the Portuguese camp, emanating from Ronaldo’s restlessness.
The famed Ayew brothers -Andre and Jordan- again carry Ghana’s hopes but Addo’s squad is littered with talent from top leagues around the world.
This includes Portugal, where teenage striker, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, plays, for Sporting CP.
– CAJ News