On paper Brazil have enjoyed a comfortable World Cup campaign so far, winning both of their matches with goalkeeper Alisson not yet having a save to make. But, the complexion of their wins over Serbia and Switzerland have been anything but routine, with their most recent triumph over Switzerland requiring an 83rd-minute winner from unlikely hero Casemiro.
Tite’s talent-laden squad allows him to tinker excessively if Brazil are struggling to break sides down who naturally execute a low block against them. Against Serbia, it was Richarlison who turned difference-maker on the hour mark to get the Selecao off the mark in Qatar, before Casemiro wandered up-field to unleash a deflected effort past Yann Sommer late on against the Swiss.
Those wins have confirmed Brazil’s place in the last 16, and they will now want to guarantee top spot and keep the momentum going. However, Tite has confirmed that he will be rotating the squad on the final day of the group stage, given the quality he has in his 26-man roster.
One man who will be involved from the start is Dani Alves, a somewhat controversial call up to the Brazil squad, who will also make history as the oldest man to play for Brazil as well as the oldest captain – set to don the armband aged 39 years and 211 days. Before Alves takes the field, the oldest man to represent Brazil was Djalma Santos, who was 39 years and 102 days old at the time of his final appearance.
“For me it represents the fact that I can wear the Brazil jersey. It makes me very proud to be here. I’ve been with the Brazilian squad for many years and to be able to wrap up this cycle, playing a World Cup, makes me very happy,” Dani Alves said.
“It’s been 16 years with the national squad and I’ve tried to do my very best. Life, I think, always rewards the people who love what they do, who truly do their best in the mission.
“I think I’m reaping what I have planted over those 16 years.”
Cameroon, by contrast, are scrambling to join them in the knockouts. Rigobert Song’s men were humbled 1-0 by Switzerland on matchday one, but produced an epic comeback against Serbia to snatch a 3-3 draw last time out.
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That confidence-boosting point could give them all the fuel required to upset the odds here and claim a huge World Cup scalp. The Indomitable Lions, though, will have to try and keep a lid on Richarlison and Co without regular shot-stopper Andre Onana, who was recently sent home after a fallout with Song.
The Cameroon manager commented that Onana’s tournament had been cut short due to “disciplinary reasons”, but the Inter Milan ‘keeper has since responded in a statement that has sought to downplay question marks over his behaviour and commitment to the nation.
Onana commented: “I want to express my affection for my Country and the National Team. Yesterday I was not allowed to be on the ground to help Cameroon, as I always do, to achieve the team’s goals. I always behaved in a way to lead the team to success in a good manner.
“I have put all my efforts and energy into finding solutions to a situation that a footballer often experiences, but there has been no will on the other side. Some moments are difficult to assimilate. However, I always respect and support the decisions of the people in charge of pursuing the success of our Team and Country.
“I extend all my strength to my team-mates because we demonstrated that we are capable of going very far in this competition. The values that I promote as a person and as a player are the ones that identify me, and that my family has given me since childhood.
“Representing Cameroon has always been a privilege. The Nation first and forever. Thank you!”
Cameroon vs Brazil match stats
Brazil, naturally, have been in the wars during these formative stages of the tournament. With such a range of twinkle-toed forwards, Tite’s men would have been expecting to the be on the wrong side of a bit of rough-housing. As such, after the first two rounds Brazil were the third-most fouled nation at the World Cup in Qatar (29), with only Argentina (39) and Portugal (32) earning more fouls than them. Expect that pattern to continue on Friday, even without Neymar.
It’s easy to see why Brazil are so feared going forward. Not only do they boast an embarrassment of attacking riches on paper, with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Antony and Gabriel Jesus all starting on the bench in their two openers, but they also have the stats to back up their absurd attacking output. Despite scoring just three goals, Brazil registered more shots on target than any other nation after two rounds in Qatar (14).
20 Nov 2018 – Brazil 1-0 Cameroon – International Friendly
23 Jun 2014 – Cameroon 1-4 Brazil – World Cup
19 Jun 2003 – Brazil 0-1 Cameroon – Confederations Cup
31 May 2001 – Brazil 2-0 Cameroon – Confederations Cup
13 Nov 1996 – Brazil 2-0 Cameroon – International Friendly
These two nations have met before in a World Cup setting. In 2014, they tussled in Group A, with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men winning 4-1 thanks to a Neymar brace, and further goals from Fred (the former Lyon forward) and Fernandinho. Joel Matip got Cameroon’s only goal from that showdown in Brasilia.