Granit Xhaka said Switzerland “can beat anyone” at the World Cup after Breel Embolo’s goal secured a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in their opening match on Thursday.
The Swiss have reached the last 16 at the last two World Cups but play tournament favourites Brazil next before concluding their Group G campaign against Serbia.
Switzerland made the quarter-finals at Euro 2020 after knocking out current World champions France and Xhaka feels his side could be one of the dark horses in Qatar.
“It is not chance, when you look at the last 10 to 12 years we have been in the main tournaments,” the Swiss captain said.
“Brazil is the favourite for the tournament in my view. We have to bother them as we did in 2018.”
Switzerland drew 1-1 with Brazil in their first game at the 2018 World Cup, where they also beat Serbia 2-1 thanks to goals from Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.
“I think Brazil can put three teams in the starting 11. Huge, huge talents. Big, big quality,” said Xhaka.
“But it is one game over 90 minutes. Anything can happen in one game. We need to be very compact and not make stupid mistakes because you pay for that.
“Our team is much more experienced than four years ago. We’re looking forward to our next match. On our day we can beat anyone.”
Xhaka praised the Yaounde-born Embolo for his winner against the country of his birth, which he left as a child.
Embolo held up his hands apologetically after scoring early in the second half.
“It’s never easy playing against the country of your birth but Breel was great today. I know he kept quiet after his goal but we need Breel for his goals,” said Xhaka.
Embolo was granted Swiss citizenship in 2014 and pledged his international allegiance to his adopted homeland.
“That’s part of the game,” said Cameroon boss Rigobert Song. “We are all proud of our country and you saw he didn’t celebrate the goal. This is part and parcel of football.
“I’m happy and I’m also proud of him. He’s playing for the Switzerland national team, I’d have liked him to be on my side but that’s just life.”
Cameroon missing fire power
The sight of Roger Milla on the pitch before Cameroon lost 1-0 to Switzerland on Thursday only underlined the ineffectiveness of the west Africans’ attack in their first match of the Qatar World Cup.
Milla is etched into World Cup history for the goals that propelled Cameroon to the quarter-finals of Italia 1990, winning hearts with his smile and joyous hip-wiggling celebration.
Four years later, Milla appeared at the World Cup Finals in 1994 in the United States. Despite being 42, when most players have long since retired, he scored again and his goal against Russia makes him — still — the oldest player to ever score in a World Cup Finals.
That was why Milla, now 70, was at the Al Janoub Stadium to receive a special award from FIFA.
In the stands was another Cameroon goalscoring hero of the past, Samuel Eto’o, the former Barcelona star who now heads his country’s football federation.
Cameroon’s current crop of forwards found goals harder to come by against the well-organised Swiss.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a journeyman striker whose career has taken him most notably to Schalke in Germany, then Stoke in England, before the glamour of Paris Saint-Germain and now Bayern Munich.
He has scored 11 times for Bayern this season, but his touch deserted him in the desert.
The gangling 33-year-old forward’s best dribble of the game left him in an difficult angle and only able to blast the ball at Swiss ‘keeper Yann Sommer.
Bryan Mbeumo, a stocky winger who is dwarfed by Choupo-Moting, played for France’s under-21 side before switching allegiance to the west Africans.
Mbeumo, a key part of Premier League side Brentford’s team, was an energetic handful for the Swiss defenders in the first half.
He had a clear chance, blasting a powerful shot that Sommer could only parry, only for Karl Toko Ekambi to somehow hit the rebound over the bar from close range.
Like Choupo-Moting, Mbeumo was substituted in the second half.
To rub salt into Cameroon’s wounds, Swizterland’s scorer Breel Embolo was born in Cameroon.
Originally published at tribune.com.pk