Who: Cameroon vs Serbia, Group G
Where: Al Janoub Stadium
When: Monday, November 28, at 1pm (1000 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 edged Cameroon’s three – we’ll all be in for a treat.
Vincent Aboubakar played for Cameroon that day as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. Now, 12 years later, he is captaining his country on football’s biggest stage. The veteran striker is used to Gulf conditions, having joined Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr FC last year.
He’s supported by goalkeeper André Onana and star midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa who both play in the Italian Serie A. Anguissa is the team’s defensive linchpin with an eye for the occasional goal. If he can find form, we could be expecting some fireworks on Monday.
Serbia’s muscular stature, however, poses a tough match to Cameroon’s flair.
Sergej Milinković-Savić, commanding midfield, links up with the devastating pairing of Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahović up front, to form a dangerous strike team. And that’s without mentioning Fiorentina striker Luka Jović.
It’s a make-or-break game for both sides, coming off the back of losses in their opening matches: Cameroon to Switzerland and Serbia to Brazil. A second defeat for either would leave them on the brink of elimination from the World Cup.
Coach Dragan Stojković’s men will want a physical, aggressive game, but will need to keep their discipline.
Brazil managed to unpick Serbia in their first World Cup match in Qatar by constant prodding and poking, eventually prising open holes in their formation. Cameroon are unlikely to offer quite the brilliance and dominance of the five-time world champions, but Serbia can still be undone if they are not vigilant.
Cameroon had the best of the first half in their opening match against Switzerland on Thursday, showing they pose a threat on goal against even robust opposition.
Off the pitch, FIFA is investigating photographs that appeared to show a Serbian nationalist flag hanging in the team’s dressing room for that Brazil game last week. The outline of Kosovo can be seen on the flag under the Serbian national colours, 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 – European football’s governing body – since 2016.
On Monday, Serbia will want to leave that controversy behind when they take the field. Or Cameroon may well make them pay.