Brazil, Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay kick off their campaigns on a star-studded day five of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Neymar begins his quest to lift the World Cup and be certified Brazil legend when they begin their Group G campaign at 7pm against Serbia.
It has been another quiet week for Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Manchester United on Tuesday, and his Portugal page start by meeting Ghana in group H.
Heung-Min Son, after having surgery to stabilize a fracture around his left eye earlier this month, is fit to lead South Korea in its opening towards Uruguay 13.00. The day begins with Switzerland touch Cameroon at 10.00.
WC setup – 24 November
- Switzerland vs Cameroon – Group G, kick-off at 10.00
- Uruguay vs South Korea – Group H, kick-off at 13.00
- Portugal vs Ghana – Group H, kick-off at 16.00
- Brazil vs Serbia – Group G, kick-off at 19.00
Fernandes: Portugal not distracted by Ronaldo
Bruno Fernandes insists Portugal are “100 per cent focused” on the World Cup despite the distraction of Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United.
Ronaldo said it felt like the “right time for a new challenge” after his contract with the Premier League side was terminated.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s game against Ghana, Fernandes said: “We are all focused 100 per cent on the national team and the World Cup. We are all aware of what we have to do.
“We are in a championship that is the dream of every player and a competition where every player wants to play.”
Asked if he would feel uncomfortable with his former Manchester United team-mate, Fernandes added: “I don’t feel uncomfortable, I don’t have to choose a side. Cristiano has always been an inspiration to me, so it was a dream come true to be able to play with him, but we know that nothing lasts forever.
“It was good while it lasted. We have to respect his decision, whether we agree or not.”
Portugal manager Fernando Santos insisted that the subject of Ronaldo’s move had not been raised in the group, adding: “This is something that has not been discussed when we have all been together. The conversation has not come up at any point, not even from him (Ronaldo).”
Brazil enjoys the “favourites” label
Brazil has no problem being favorites to win the World Cup, and it must be natural for the players to handle the pressure, according to head coach Tite.
“The pressure is natural. Brazil has the greatest history in football and with that legacy always comes the pressure,” he said.
“We have some of the players who attract the most media attention in the world, so we take it for granted, it is our dream to win a World Cup. Pressure is inevitable.”
Brazil have won the World Cup five times and Tite said it is not his responsibility that Brazil have not won the tournament in 20 years.
He said he can only be responsible for the past four years, his only complete cycle since Brazil lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals in Russia 2018.
“In Russia we only had two years to fix the team and I came to the rescue. Now it’s different because I had the opportunity to build the team the way I wanted,” said Tite.
“That’s why my feeling today is completely different than four years ago. I’m not so nervous because all the work is done.”
“We will not target Son”
Uruguay coach Diego Alonso refuted suggestions his players will target Son’s vulnerability around his face.
“It’s difficult to answer your question,” he said in a pre-match press conference. “The question is about Son and we have a lot of respect for Son, but they have other footballers and are very well coached with an exceptional starting XI.
“The only advantage we will make here is our football. We will try to be better than them and use our players, not to use the difficulties of the other team.”
Alonso also hailed his players as the “best in the world” as they bid for an unlikely third World Cup success.
“Uruguay players are the best in the world, they defend us through thick and thin,” he said. “That’s the most important tool we have, is the feeling the Uruguayan players have, how they identify, the sense of belonging they have.
“When I say Uruguayan players are the best in the world, it’s because they are my players. Uruguayan players respect the team, that’s why they are the best.”
Yakin: This is the best Swiss site ever
Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said on Wednesday that the current national team is the “best ever” and is determined to reach the later stages of the World Cup in Qatar.
Switzerland have progressed from the group stage in three of the last four tournaments, missing out only in 2010.
Yakin, who took charge last year after Switzerland reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals, predicted the country would be at their best at any World Cup in Qatar, where they will also face Brazil and Serbia in Group G.
“I think that we are seeing the best Swiss national team that has ever existed,” Yakin said. “We have improved a lot and now we want to make history. We are not just here to participate. We are here to win and we want to get to the next round.”
Heung-Min’s son will be fit enough to join South Korea in their World Cup opener against Uruguay.
Head coach Paulo Bento confirmed that the Tottenham striker will play in the black protective mask he has been wearing in training since sustaining a fracture around his left eye in a Champions League game against Marseille on November 1.
While Son will play for South Korea and face Tottenham team-mate Rodrigo Bentancur, his fellow Premier League striker Hee-Chan Hwang will miss out with a hamstring injury.
Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo could be involved for Uruguay after a thigh injury and Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez is expected to shake off the minor ankle sprain he picked up in practice this week.
Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic remains hopeful about the striker’s form Aleksandar Mitrovicwho missed Fulham’s last couple of Premier League games with a foot problem.
“For the last four or five days he has been working with the team,” Stojkovic said. “The good news is that he doesn’t feel the pain in the area where he had the injury.”
The Serbia boss said the Juventus wing-back Filip Kostic was in doubt with a muscle problem.
Opta Stats: Uruguay close out opening game?
- This is the first ever meeting between Switzerland and Cameroon. It is also only the second time that Switzerland have faced African opposition at the FIFA World Cup – they beat Togo 2-0 in the group stage of the 2006 tournament.
- Cameroon have qualified for their eighth FIFA World Cup, the most by an African team. They have also played more FIFA World Cup matches than any other African nation (23), while only Nigeria (23) have scored more goals in the tournament among African teams than Cameroon (18).
- In addition to winning a record five FIFA World Cups, Brazil has won more matches (73) and has the best win rate (67 percent – 73 wins in 109 matches) of any nation in the tournament’s history.
- Uruguay have won their opening game in just one of their last seven World Cup appearances (D3 L3), although the last came in 2018 against Egypt. Nevertheless, they have still progressed from the group stage in five of the seven editions.
- Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of only four players to score in four different FIFA World Cup tournaments, joining Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose. No players have found the net in five editions.