Switzerland’s Xhaka and Cameroon’s Chuopo-Moting weren’t always fan favorites. Now their teams depend on them.
Who: Switzerland vs Cameroon, Group G
Where: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Thursday, November 24, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. (10:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Switzerland (15), Cameroon (43)
Redemption is the dominant theme in this opening match of Group G.
Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka has been one of the standout players in the Premier League this season for Arsenal. Situated further up the field this season, he has already scored more goals this season (4) than in the previous three combined. Once a lightning rod of criticism for Arsenal fans, the midfielder’s name is now routinely chanted by the fanbase.
Xhaka’s success at this outpost should come as no surprise, given that he has always worked there for Switzerland. In previous years, his performances for Switzerland have always been noticeably better than his club’s. He was instrumental in their run to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals last year, where they defeated France in the round of 16.
This time, the Swiss fans hope that Xhaka can carry his club form to the World Cup. He listens closely and you will hear the tables turn.
— ArsenHolic 🇰🇪 (@Dancomunyao) November 19, 2022
But if there’s one player who could outshine Xhaka’s redemption arc this season, it’s possibly Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
The 33-year-old striker has often been laughed at by fans who couldn’t understand how a player who was relegated with Stoke City in the Premier League went on to play for European giants Paris Saint-Germain and now Bayern. Munich.
Chuopo-Moting’s role at both clubs was often limited to late substitute appearances. But this season at Bayern, he stepped out of the shadows to fill the void left by Robert Lewandowski’s departure over the summer.
He has 11 goals in all competitions, the second highest along with Sadio Mane for Bayern this season. In the Bundesliga this year, he is currently averaging more than one goal per game.
Once a finisher, Chuopo-Moting is now a star in this Bayern squad. He is expected to repeat the same role for Cameroon at the World Cup.
“It is true that Eric is in the best form of his career,” Cameroonian defender Jean-Charles Castelletto said in an interview with SNTV. “For sure he will be an important player for Cameroon. We all need to be inspired by him to give ourselves the best we can.”
Switzerland and Cameroon have also been on similar trajectories in the past year.
For starters, they both secured World Cup qualification in spectacular fashion. Switzerland led European champions Italy to a 1-1 draw in Rome in the penultimate qualifier in November last year, with Italian midfielder Jorginho missing a penalty in the 90th minute. They then beat Bulgaria in their last match group and finished ahead of Italy to qualify for the tournament.
Cameroon also needed a late winner in extra time in their last qualifying game against Algeria, in which the Indomitable Lions sealed the fifth and final place for African teams in the World Cup.
Both are coming off strong performances in their most recent appearance at a major tournament. Switzerland reached the Euro 2020 quarterfinals for the first time in their history last year and came very close to reaching the semifinals, losing to Spain on penalties.
Cameroon reached the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, where they were eliminated by Egypt on penalties.
Interestingly, the two sides have never clashed before. Now they will meet on the biggest stage of all.