Breel Embolo scored the game-winning goal against his birth country as Switzerland defeated Cameroon 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday in their World Cup Group G opener.
The Yaounde-born attacker refused to celebrate his second-half tap-in, but his goal sparked jubilant scenes for Murat Yakin’s side at full-time as Cameroon suffered its eighth consecutive World Cup defeat, one short of the record.
The Indomitable Lions had the better of the first half, keeping Yann Sommer in the Swiss net relatively busy, though Cameroon had a couple of warning signs just before the break.
Embolo was involved in one of those incidents and was fittingly the man to break the deadlock in the 48th minute, with Switzerland ultimately good value for the win after a strong second-half performance.
Cameroon started stronger and should have scored after 10 minutes when Bryan Mbeumo blasted at Sommer and Karl Toko Ekambi inexplicably fired over on the rebound.
Cameroon remained undeterred, with Martin Hongla testing Sommer from a tight angle 20 minutes later, and a crucial Silvan Widmer clearance denying Toko Ekambi a tap-in.
Switzerland finished the half stronger, with only a last-ditch tackle by Jean-Charles Castelletto preventing Embolo from scoring, before Manuel Akanji nodded wide in stoppage time.
But Embolo was unstoppable just after the break, sweeping home from Xherdan Shaqiri’s low right-wing cross.
Andre Onana’s fine stop to deny Ruben Vargas kept Cameroon in the game just past the hour mark, but Rigobert Song’s men were unable to capitalize at the other end.
What does it imply? Switzerland needs this win because things are only going to get tougher from here.
With Brazil and Serbia on the way, it was critical for Switzerland to come out on top – and they did.
It wasn’t a vintage performance from a team Yakin described as “one of the best Swiss national teams that has ever existed,” but they played with real fluency in the second half.
Switzerland is one of only three European teams to have reached the knockout stages of all four major international tournaments in the last four years, and this was an important step toward continuing that streak in Qatar.
Shaqiri is as dependable as ever.
He may not have as much influence over Switzerland’s general play as he once did, but Xherdan Shaqiri always seems to deliver for his country. His cross was cleverly pulled back slightly, setting up an easy finish for Embolo’s winner and giving the experienced winger his 12th goal involvement for the Swiss in the last four major tournaments, accounting for exactly half of their total.
He was full of running and effort, but the left winger’s performance was largely frustrating. Although he created two chances for Switzerland, he squandered two glorious chances: the first saw him slice a cross over the goal with Granit Xhaka waiting for a tap-in, and the second saw him fail to beat Onana from close range.
What comes next?
Switzerland will face the ultimate test when they face Brazil on Monday. Cameroon will play Serbia the same day.