World Cup Group G predictions: Swiss can follow Brazil to last 16
While it is hard to look past Brazil in Group G, the South Americans will be made to earn their points in a seriously tough section.
All three sectional rivals will harbour realistic ambitions of reaching the knockout stages, so World Cup favourites Brazil cannot expect an easy ride.
After so often having their tag of ‘World Cup favourites’ paper over some fairly evident cracks, the 2022 version of the Brazil national team has just about everything going for it.
Individual quality is not often usually an issue but Brazil now have an excellent manager in Tite, a wonderful balance to both the squad and Tite’s system, and a degree of unity that is rarely seen among such a collection of elite talents.
Neymar remains the star of the show but Brazil are no longer ‘Neymar… plus 10’.
Tite has forged a system that maximises the Paris Saint-Germain superstar’s talents and does not rely solely on them.
In attack, they are frightening. There is dead-ball brilliance, aerial threat in Richarlison, pacy wing play in Vinicius Junior and Raphinha and craft in Lucas Paqueta and Neymar.
Casemiro is arguably the best defensive midfielder in world football, there is huge quality at full-back and several world-class centre-backs to choose from.
In short, good luck finding a weakness.
Switzerland head to Qatar full of confidence.
Last summer, they knocked out France out of Euro 2020 en route to a penalty shootout defeat in the quarter-finals to Spain.
The following autumn, the Swiss finished ahead of Italy in World Cup qualifying and this year Murat Yakin’s men beat Portugal and Spain the Uefa Nations League.
There is quality throughout a well-organised team, with the experienced Yann Sommer in goal, Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji in defence, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka directing the midfield, Xherdan Shaqiri providing the magic and Breel Embolo supplying the goals.
The squad may still be one of the less glamorous in Qatar but Switzerland are a well-organised, defensively resolute side who rarely make life easy for opponents.
And, having caused upsets against heavy-hitters France, Spain, Portugal and Italy in the last 18 months, Yakin’s side will fear no one.
Serbia have gone under the radar but topped a World Cup qualifying group containing Portugal and have a direct attacking style that could unsettle even the likes of Brazil.
Aleksandar Mitrovic offers a muscular aerial threat and has scored nine goals in 12 Premier League appearances for Fulham this term and Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic will either offer fresh legs from the bench or could partner Mitrovic in a bold but devastating attacking duo.
The craft of Dusan Tadic and delivery of winger Filip Kostic will supply high-class ammunition to the front line and behind them Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has the ability to swiftly turn defence into attack.
The weakness in Dragan Stojkovic’s team is a relatively wobbly rearguard and Serbia’s best chance of progressing could be to go for all-out attack.
Rigobert Song’s Indomitable Lions are cast as the also-rans of Group G but they have enough quality to prove competitive and will fancy their chances of springing a shock result or two.
Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana is of genuine Champions League quality and the same is true of Napoli defensive midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has scored against Barcelona and Inter in plundering three goals in four Champions League appearances for Bayern this season and captain Vincent Aboubakar was a regular goalscorer in European football’s elite competition while at Porto.
In January’s Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon lost their semi-final only on penalties to Egypt – who themselves lost on penalties in the final to Senegal having knocked out Ivory Coast and Morocco.
The Indomitable Lions have a fair claim to being among Africa’s strongest representatives and should not be overlooked.
This could prove the most exciting group in Qatar.
Brazil look the best team at the finals while Serbia and Cameroon are far more impressive going forward than in defence, hinting at some thrilling end-to-end encounters.
Switzerland offer a more balanced approach but scored freely in World Cup qualifying and have beaten Spain and Portugal in two of their last three competitive outings.
But it is Swiss solidity that makes them marginally the best bet to follow Brazil into the latter stages.