Breel Embolo scored the only goal of the game to give Switzerland a 1-0 win in their Group G opener against Cameroon at the 2022 World Cup.
The Cameroon-born striker broke the deadlock minutes into the second half after an end-to-end first period ended all square.
Switzerland dominated the early stages of the first half but could not break down Cameroon, who slowly grew confidence and created the first two clear-cut chances.
Bryan Mbeumo broke free following a quick Cameroon counter-attack and chose to shoot from a tight angle rather than square the ball to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, and saw his shot saved by Yann Sommer. The rebound fell perfectly into the path of Karl Toko-Ekambi, but the forward blasted his effort over the bar.
Minutes later Sommer was called into action again to deny Choupo-Moting from close range after the Bayern Munich forward broke through the Switzerland defence to set up a one-on-one, but failed to convert.
Despite Cameroon enjoying the better of the opening period following Switzerland’s early dominance, it was the latter who missed a big chance to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time. Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji rose highest to meet a corner in the six-yard box, but he guided his almost-free header over.
Three minutes into the second half Switzerland took the lead through Embolo. Granit Xhaka started a move in the middle of the park and found Remo Freuler with a progressive pass, on the half turn the midfielder quickly offloaded the ball to Shaqiri out wide who drove forward toward the byline to pull a low cross back for Embolo in front of goal who could not miss, as he fired the ball beyond Andre Onana.
Onana kept Cameroon in the game when he made a brilliant save to deny Ruben Vargas. Shaqiri was allowed to drive toward the byline on the left again and pull back another low cross, this time for Vargas to fire a shot Onana’s way, but the Inter Milan goalkeeper made a strong save.
Quickly after Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa produced a game-changing interception when Shaqiri delivered a dangerous corner toward Embolo who was ready to tap in a second at the back post, but Anguissa got his foot in the way to put Embolo off.
It’s Switzerland’s sixth straight opening game at the World Cup without defeat, their last first-game loss coming against Germany in 1966.
TALKING POINT – IMPORTANT WIN FOR SWITZERLAND, BUT THEY MUST IMPROVE
It wasn’t straightforward and they were made to work for it, but Switzerland did enough to secure the all-important three points in a game that felt like a knockout fixture. With games against tournament favourites Brazil and a tough-looking Serbia to come, beating Cameroon in the Group G opener was crucial.
On another day Switzerland might have struggled with Cameroon missing two massive chances early on in the first half, and Rigobert Song’s side could have been out of sight before the half-time whistle if Toko-Ekambi and Choupo-Moting had their shooting boots on. Switzerland had all the possession in the opening period but failed to create anything, and could have easily lost the game during this period as they became leaky at the back.
They improved in the second half but will need to take it up a gear or two if they want to trouble Brazil, and even Serbia, in their next two group games.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – YANN SOMMER (SWITZERLAND)
Sommer had a great game for Switzerland between the sticks and arguably won them the game with a string of outstanding stops to deny Cameroon from taking the lead. His best save came after a quarter of an hour when he got down quickly to deny Choupo-Moting in a one-on-one, minutes after keeping Toko-Ekambi out.
The 33-year-old made five saves during the game and came to the aid of a fragile Switzerland defence at times.
SWITZERLAND: Sommer 8, Widmer 7, Akanji 7, Elvedi 7, Rodríguez 7, Freuler 7, Xhaka 7, Shaqiri 7, Sow 6, Vargas 7, Embolo 7. Subs: Comert N/A, Frei 6, Rieder N/A, Seferovic 6, Okafor 6
CAMEROON: Onana 6, Tolo 7, Nkoulou 7, Castelletto 7, Fai 7, Hongla 7, Gouet 7, Anguissa 7, Ekambi 6, Mbuemo 7, Choupo-Moting 6. Subs: Ondoua 6, Ngamaleu N/A, N’Koudou 6, Aboubakar 6
10’ – CHANCE CAMEROON! A big chance goes begging! Mbeumo breaks free following a quick Cameroon counter attack and gets a shot away from an angle which is beaten away by Sommer, only for Toko-Ekambi to blast the rebound over the bar.
14’ – BIG SAVE FROM SOMMER! Choupo-Moting gets in behind the Switzerland defence and looks to beat Sommer one-on-one, but the goalkeeper gets down to his left well and makes a good stop.
45’+1 – BIG CHANCE FOR SWITZERLAND! Man City’s Akanji rises highest from a dangerous corner and meets the ball in the six-yard box, but his header if off target. Switzerland’s best chance of the game!
48’ – GOAL! Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon (Embolo): Deadlock broken! Embolo scores from close-range to put Switzerland ahead! This time Switzerland take advantage of the early dominance! Once more Xhaka starts the move in the middle of the park and finds Freuler, the midfielder turns and quickly plays in Shaqiri out wide, who drives forward toward the byline and pulls a low cross back for Embolo in front of goal who can’t miss.
66’ – BIG CHANCE SWITZERLAND! Onana keeps Cameroon in the game! Shaqiri once again drives down the right wing and pulls back a low cross, this time for Vargas who has his fierce shot saved.
68’ – UNBELIEVABLE DEFENDING FROM ANGUISSA! He gets a header on target down one end, before producing a game-changing interception down the other! Shaqiri delivers a dangerous corner and Embolo is ready to tap it in at the back post, but Anguissa gets his foot in the way first to put Embolo off.
84’ – SWITZERLAND WANT A PENALTY! The ball drops in the penalty box and it seems to brush the arm of Vincent Aboubakar, but not enough for the referee.