Who: Cameroon vs Serbia, Group G
Where: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Monday, November 28 at 1:00 p.m. (10:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Cameroon (43), Serbia (21)
An unusual pairing, these two teams have met only once before, in a 2010 international friendly. And if Monday’s game is anything like that seven-goal thriller, when Serbia’s four bested Cameroon’s three, we will all be in luck.
Vincent Aboubakar played for Cameroon that day as an 18-year-old. Now, 12 years later, he is captaining his country on soccer’s biggest stage. The veteran striker is used to Gulf conditions, having joined Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr FC last year.
He is supported by goalkeeper André Onana and star midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, both of whom play in the Italian Serie A. Anguissa is the defensive lynchpin of the team with an eye for the occasional goal. If you can find a way, we could expect some fireworks on Monday.
Serbia’s muscular stature, however, poses a tough match for Cameroon’s style.
Commanding midfield Sergej Milinković-Savić joins the devastating pairing of Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahović up front to form a dangerous attacking team. And that’s not to mention Fiorentina striker Luka Jović.
It is a decisive match for both teams, who are coming off defeats in their first games: Cameroon against Switzerland and Serbia against Brazil. A second loss for either would leave them on the brink of World Cup elimination.
Coach Dragan Stojković’s men will want a physical and aggressive game, but they will have to maintain discipline.
Brazil managed to defeat Serbia in their first World Cup match in Qatar through constant shoving and prodding, eventually opening holes in their formation. Cameroon is unlikely to offer the brilliance and dominance of the five-time world champions, but Serbia can still fall apart if they are not vigilant.
Cameroon had the better of the first half in their opener against Switzerland on Thursday, proving they pose a threat on goal even against solid opposition.
Off the pitch, FIFA is investigating photos that appeared to show a Serbian national flag hanging in the team’s locker room for last week’s game in Brazil. The outline of Kosovo can be seen on the flag under the Serbian national colors, which are emblazoned with the inscription: “We do not surrender.”
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, has been a member of FIFA and EUFA, the governing body for European soccer, since 2016.
On Monday, Serbia will want to put that controversy behind them when they take the field. Or Cameroon may well make them pay.