Al Wakrah (Qatar), November 24: Breel Embolo scored against the land of his birth – Cameroon – as Switzerland cruised to a 1-0 win in their World Cup Group G clash at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday.
Embolo, after scoring his team’s opening goal, refused to celebrate and stood still with an apologetic face. The 25-year-old swept home an Xherdan Shaqiri cross to give the Swiss the lead in the 48th minute.
Embolo was born in Yaounde (the capital of Cameroon) but raised in Basel.
The Swiss goal came after Cameroon, without a win in the World Cup for 20 years, had dominated the first half, missing several good chances to take the lead.
The Indomitable Lions, who eliminated Algeria in a playoff to qualify for the tournament, had outplayed the Swiss in the first 45 minutes with quick combinations, speed and power as their opponents remained toothless up front.
They carved out their first chance after 10 minutes with Bryan Mbeumo testing goalkeeper Yann Sommer before Karl Toko Ekambi sent his rebound over the bar.
The Swiss were in trouble again a little later with in-form forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting snatching the ball from an opponent to charge into the box only for Sommer to block his effort.
In search of their first win at a World Cup in 20 years, Cameroon were bolder, taking on their opponents in one-on-one situations, while the Swiss rarely managed to get into their opponents’ box.
Switzerland, who reached the round of 16 in the two previous World Cups, struck at the start of the second half with Xherdan Shaqiri cutting into the box and Embolo tapping in what proved to be the winner.
An almost identical move just past the hour almost saw the Swiss score again but Ruben Vargas’s shot was pushed wide by keeper Andre Onana who kept his team in the game.
The Swiss next play Brazil on Monday with Cameroon taking on Serbia.
Belgium spoils Canada’s World Cup return with 1-0 win
Thibaut Courtois saved an early penalty and Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal to give Belgium a 1-0 win over Canada at the World Cup on Thursday, spoiling the North American team’s return to the tournament after 36 years.
The Canadians have yet to collect a point or even score a goal in four World Cup matches, which includes the three games from their debut in 1986.
Still, they outplayed second-ranked Belgium at times at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, with Alphonso Davies the star of Canada’s team squandering the best chance when his penalty was blocked by Courtois.
With Eden Hazard ineffective and Kevin De Bruyne’s passing unusually awry, Belgium often relied on the long ball from the back and that tactic led to the 44th-minute goal. Center back Toby Alderweireld split the defense with his pass and Batshuayi ran through to guide a left-footed finish into the far corner.
Batshuayi was only playing because first-choice striker Romelu Lukaku was injured and could potentially miss the entire group stage.
Canada had 21 shots compared to the nine of Belgium, whose well-established team filled with veterans was far from convincing.
There were six players in their 30s in the starting lineup, four of them having accrued more than 100 international appearances. Courtois and De Bruyne might reach three figures at this World Cup, in what looks like being a last hurrah for this group of players often described as a “golden generation.”
The absence of Lukaku a prolific scorer and big presence up front is a huge blow to coach Roberto Martinez, with Batshuayi failing to impress aside from his well-taken goal.
Indeed, all the best moves came from a mobile and attacking Canada team in front of their loud, Maple Leaf-waving fans.
Davies stood out with his driving runs from left back while captain Atiba Hutchinson, at the age of 39, became the oldest outfield player to start a World Cup match.
They had 14 shots in the first half alone, the most by a team at the World Cup without scoring in 16 years.
(ToI With inputs from Agencies/AP)