Breel Embolo’s moving goal lifts Switzerland past Cameroon | World Cup 2022

Breel Embolo grew up in Basel, but he was born in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, and only obtained Swiss citizenship eight years ago. This explains why the Monaco striker refrained from celebrating one of the simplest, but potentially most significant, goals he will ever score.

In an awkward group also including Brazil and Serbia, it was a game Swiss needed to win and in the 48th minute Embolo made sure his mission was accomplished.

It wasn’t Embolo’s fault that his six-yard run scored on the Cameroonians’ hearts as the odds of seeing their team progress past the group stage for the first time since Italia 90 have noticeably receded.

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“Football writes these stories,” said Murat Yakin, the Swiss coach. “I said to Breel: ‘Cameroon is your friend but it is also your adversary.’ I am happy with his performance. »

Qatar 2022’s opening week featured plenty of intricate passing, clever moves and sometimes kaleidoscopic position exchanges, but Cameroon introduced a retro theme, reminding everyone that balls crashing into corners don’t hurt. have not necessarily had their day.

The game plan was heavily focused on getting the ball long and early to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The Bayern Munich forward remains familiar to his former home crowd at Stoke, as does Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri. Now with Chicago Fire, Shaqiri, who also retains some fandom at Liverpool, is the creative catalyst for Switzerland but has been slow to get going.

Every move Shaqiri made in the first half was heavily clouded by Cameroon left-back Nouhou Tolo. When Shaqiri switched wings, he received similar treatment from Collins Fai.

Such early struggles dictated that while the Indomitable Lions could not always manage in a central midfield consisting for Switzerland of Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler, they were often free to play. focus on the Choupo-Moting diet.

Cameroon-born Breel Embolo fails to celebrate winning goal for Switzerland
Cameroon-born Breel Embolo doesn’t celebrate his winning goal for Switzerland. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Yakin had left Newcastle’s Fabian Schär on the bench and instead paired Manchester City’s Nico Elvedi and Manuel Akanji in central defence. Choupo-Moting, before fading, reveled in putting this pair through a thorough workout, on one occasion sending the ball past Akanji to fire a lukewarm shot at Yann Sommer.

Even better luck came when Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo – whose right side advances were sporadically threatened – fired a shot which Sommer parried into the path of well-placed Karl Toko Ekambi, whose effort deflected wildly off target . Otherwise, Toko Ekambi found himself effectively, and intelligently, marked by Silvan Widmer.

Rigobert’s Song tactics may have been straight out of Sam Allardyce’s playbook, but as the impressive Sommer saves again, this time from Martin Hongla, Switzerland look shaken. At half-time they had barely threatened, failing to muster an effort on target. Moreover, Cameroon’s key midfielder, Neapolitan André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, had finished the first 45 minutes well and looked capable of disrupting the Freuler-Xhaka axis.

Yet despite all the pressing, full-back propelled counterattacks from Cameroon, their defense seemed like a bundle of nerves on those admittedly strictly rationed chances that Switzerland delivered the ball into their penalty area.

From such a foray in the 45th minute they should have scored but Akanji missed an inviting open header after meeting Freuler’s corner.

Perhaps that miss galvanized Switzerland, who emerged for the second half in an altogether smoother and more accurate passing mode and were quickly rewarded when Embolo struck.

With the defense losing focus, Shaqiri was allowed to capitalize on clever approach work from Xhaka and Freuler and sent a low cross curve towards the goalscorer also unguarded. All that remained was for Embolo, who set up a charitable foundation helping refugees in Switzerland and underprivileged children in Cameroon, to kick the ball six yards out before that deadpan reaction.

It was Switzerland’s first shot on target and, briefly, the African drums and vuvuzelas – which had been making quite a noise in the Doha Metro early on Thursday – fell silent.

The soundtrack resumed as Zambo Anguissa’s superb interception prevented Embolo from scoring another goal and André Onana’s fabulous diving save put away Ruben Vargas.

After that, Switzerland retreated deep, packing up their defence. With Choupo-Moting in the shadow of himself in the first half, Cameroon could find no way out.

“It’s hard to lose a game that we dominated in the first half,” Song said. “I’m disappointed but we only have three players with previous world Cup experience – and there are still two games.

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