of HUSSEIN HUSSAIN in Doha, Qatar
Doha, (CAJ News) – TWO of those who made African World Cup history, Cameroon and Ghana, will be in action in Qatar on Thursday when proceedings begin in Groups G and H.
Both return after missing Russia 2018 and face European rivals, Switzerland and Portugal, respectively.
The first match of the day pits the Indomitable Lions against the Swiss at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah.
The Group G meeting will be the first meeting between the duo in the sport.
History is very much against the Central African team when it comes to the first games of the main football competition.
Currently seventh in Africa and 43rd in the world, Cameroon have won an 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 one win is none other than a 1-0 win over then-defending champions Argentina at Italia 90, courtesy of François Omam-Biyik’s 67th-minute goal at the San Siro.
At that tournament, they became the first African team to reach the quarterfinals at the World Cup, a feat only Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 can emulate.
Giant forwards Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar will test the stout defense of the Swiss Rossocrociati (Red Crosses), ranked 15th in the world.
Coach Rigobert Song’s pride of lions will also be looking to win Cameroon’s first World Cup match since a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Korea/Japan 2002.
Song captained the team that day. Samuel Eto’o, who scored the 66th game-winner at Saitama Stadium, is now president of the Cameroon Football Federation.
In Thursday’s other Group G game, the illustrious Brazil will take on Serbia in a bid to add a sixth World Cup trophy to their unrivaled cabinet and another star atop that shield-shaped insignia.
Ranked highest in the world, Brazil’s A Seleção (The National Team) is always the favorite of the tournament and is destined to secure maximum points against The Eagles at Lusail Stadium.
Serbia are ranked 21st. Even a single draw for them from this mismatch with the South Americans will be a clash of monumental proportions.
Group H opens with a clash between two-time winners Uruguay and South Korea at Education City Stadium.
By virtue of their highest ranking (14th), La Celeste de Uruguay (The Sky Blue) will be interested in educating the Asian Tigers, who are ranked 28th.
Scorned for their 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 Portugal’s Os Navegadores will play the other group stage match at Stadium 974 in the capital, Doha.
The team led by coach Nana Otto Addo, ranked 11th in Africa and 61st in the world, will be looking for a first World Cup victory since beating the United States in South Africa 2010.
The last time the two teams met, at Brazil 2014, ninth-placed Portugal won 2-1 thanks to a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal.
Playing in their fourth tournament, the West Africans could exploit the mini-turbulence in the Portuguese camp, stemming from Ronaldo’s restlessness.
The famous Ayew brothers – Andre and Jordan – once again carry Ghana’s hopes, but Addo’s team is packed with talent from the world’s top leagues.
This includes Portugal, where teenage striker Abdul Fatawu Issahaku plays for Sporting CP.
– CAJ News