At least two European teams can go into Monday’s fixtures with confidence after winning their opening matches: Switzerland take on the giants of Brazil, before Portugal play Uruguay.
Serbia, on the other hand, need to get off the mark in the day’s first match against Cameroon. Both teams lost last week.
Cameroon v Serbia (11:00 CET)
- After failing to score and losing their opening games, both Cameroon and Serbia need their strikers on target.
- A defeat knocks Serbia out if Brazil fail to win against Switzerland in the other Group G encounter, while a loss would eliminate Cameroon if the Swiss don’t win.
- The Serbian soccer federation was charged by FIFA on Saturday for hanging a political banner about neighbouring independent state Kosovo in the changing room before the match with Brazil. Coach Dragan Stojkovic declined to comment.
- Serbian strikers Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic looked jaded during the 0-2 defeat to Brazil. Stojkovic said the squad arrived in Qatar with eight players who were not yet fully fit.
- Mitrovic has 50 goals for Serbia and his last-minute header against Portugal in Lisbon last year sent the Serbs to Qatar.
- Cameroon have lost eight World Cup matches in a row, and will be eager to avoid equalling Mexico’s unwanted record of nine.
Ghana v South Korea (14:00 CET)
- Ghana head into Tuesday’s match after losing to Portugal 3-2. South Korea are looking to get off the mark after a 0-0 draw against Uruguay in their tough Group H opener.
- Ghana coach Otto Addo will be reunited with Son Heung-min, having coached the South Korea forward at youth level. Addo was working for German club Hamburg when he first encountered Son, who he recommended for the first team.
- Son has been braving a pre-World Cup injury picked up with his club team Tottenham, wearing a mask to protect a broken left eye socket and cheered on by fans wearing Batman masks.
- South Korea are making their sixth straight World Cup appearance. The team lost to Turkey in the third-place match as co-hosts at the 2002 World Cup.
- At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ghana became the third African nation to make it to the quarterfinals. But defeat on Monday will send them home early.
Brazil v Switzerland (16:00 CET)
- The Swiss opened their account with a 1-0 win over Cameroon on Thursday, with Monaco striker Breel Embolo, who was born in Cameroon, bagging the winner.
- Confidence is high in the Swiss squad, following UEFA Nations League victories over Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal in the build-up to the World Cup.
- Coach Murat Yakin recently described his squad as “the best Switzerland national team that has ever existed”. However, that claim will be put to the test against Brazil, ranked no1 in the world.
- Brazilian star Neymar damaged ligaments in his right ankle in the team’s 2-0 opening win over Serbia and will miss the match.
- Brazil can reach the round of 16 with a win on Monday if Cameroon fail to defeat Serbia in the other group match.
Portugal v Uruguay (20:00 CET)
- Portugal go into Monday’s game knowing victory would see them qualify for the last-16 stage with a game to spare, following their opening 3-2 win over Ghana.
- Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups last Thursday, having registered the 700th club goal of his career earlier this season.
- But the 37-year-old doesn’t know where he will be playing beyond Qatar after having his Manchester United contract terminated.
- Uruguay, who drew their Group H opener 0-0 against South Korea, beat Portugal in the last 16 in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
- Like Portugal, the Uruguay squad blends the old and the new. Up front, 35-year-old Luis Suarez is joined by a new generation of talent in Darwin Nunez and Facundo Pellistri.
What happened at the World Cup on Sunday?
- A goal from Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for the Central American side against Japan, who had gone into the match buoyed by their triumph against Germany.
- Then came a major upset as Morocco pulled off yet another World Cup shock, stunning the world’s second-ranked team Belgium in a 2-0 victory.
- Croatia recovered from an early goal conceded against Canada, Andrej Kramaric scoring twice as the European side ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
- Germany recovered from a goal down in their make-or-break match with Spain, Niclas Füllkrug’s late strike cancelling out Alvaro Morata’s opener to earn a 1-1 draw that keeps the 2014 champions in the tournament.
What are the key World Cup talking points so far?
Some high profile teams have been humbled… Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1, while Japan beat Germany by the same score. Then came Morocco’s 2-0 humbling of Belgium.
While others have shone… Spain’s youngsters have caught the eye after their demolition of Costa Rica, while France are once again seen as among the top favourites after becoming the first side to qualify for the knockout stage following two straight victories.
Pre-match protests: Iranian players declined to sing their national anthem in the first game, a sign of support for the victims of the harshly repressed protests in their country. But they were back to singing in the second game after a well-known player who didn’t make the squad was arrested in Tehran, sending a clear signal to the players in Doha.
Meanwhile, German players held their hands over their mouths before kick-off of their first game, in what was seen as a silent protest against FIFA’s ban on team captains wearing anti-discrimination “One Love” armbands.
Off-pitch controversies: Seven European teams had planned for their captains to wear the armbands in a gesture of support for diversity and inclusion in a nation where homosexuality — as it is in dozens of countries — is illegal. But they backed down after FIFA said yellow cards would be issued to players who did so. Complaints have been lodged against the ban.
There was further fuss when two days before the tournament, FIFA announced that alcohol would no longer be sold to fans at stadiums.
The period in the run-up to the World Cup brought renewed scrutiny of both FIFA — plagued by corruption allegations in the era when Sepp Blatter was in charge — and Qatar over human rights. The country contests claims by campaign groups that thousands of migrant workers died after being hired to build stadiums and infrastructure.
Qatar also denies impropriety over its World Cup bid, while its defenders argue that the country has made significant progress over migrants’ rights.