Brazil’s quest to win a record-extending sixth Fifa Men’s World Cup crown in Qatar will begin against familiar opposition, with Serbia and Switzerland having also come up against the Selecao four years ago in Russia.

What has the look of a relatively kind draw for Brazil will also see them face Cameroon, who have a proud World Cup history but may struggle to make a big impact this time.

Tite’s Brazil, in contrast, are the favourites going into the tournament and will be expected to negotiate Group G without too many problems before likely facing possibly Portugal or old rivals Uruguay in the last 16.

Brazil kicked off their 2018 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland before 2-0 wins against Costa Rica and Serbia, but they never really hit the heights expected of them before being eliminated by Belgium in the quarter-finals.

They come into this World Cup fresh from an unbeaten qualifying campaign, with a squad led by Neymar but with fearsome quality in all positions.

However, the big question surrounds their lack of recent experience against leading European sides.

Since winning their fifth title in Japan in 2002, they have been knocked out at subsequent World Cups by France, the Netherlands, Germany and then Belgium.

However, they have played just one match against European opposition since their 2018 elimination, winning a friendly against the Czech Republic.

“I’m expectant but focused. We reached the World Cup: now it’s time to reach the final and be champions. This is the truth,” Tite said in an interview with The Guardian earlier this year.

Brazil’s opening match this time will be against Serbia, who failed to qualify for Euro 2020 but under new coach Dragan Stojkovic topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal.

Serbia have not gone beyond the group stage at the World Cup in their last three attempts but have a real chance this time with a squad bristling with talent in forward areas.

The big star is Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic, but Aleksandar Mitrovic is enjoying a fine season in the Premier League with Fulham, while they also boast Luka Jovic and Ajax’s Dusan Tadic.

Behind them, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Lazio also offers a goal threat from midfield.

Cameroon to cause a surprise?

The final group game between Serbia and Switzerland has the makings of a decider to see who will advance with Brazil, as the Swiss attempt to at least match their runs to the last 16 in 2014 and 2018.

They knocked France out of Euro 2020 on penalties before only losing in the quarter-finals to Spain in a shoot-out.

Murat Yakin has since taken over as coach from Vladimir Petkovic and Switzerland caused another upset in qualifying as they topped their group ahead of European champions Italy, who then failed to come through a play-off.

Then there is Cameroon, who were beaten 4-1 by a Neymar-inspired Brazil in a miserable 2014 campaign as they went home having lost all three group games.

The Indomitable Lions, whose run to the quarter-finals in 1990 has not been bettered by an African representative at a World Cup, then failed to qualify four years ago.

This year has seen them lose in the semi-finals of their own Africa Cup of Nations before Rigobert Song took charge of the team and led them to a dramatic play-off win over Algeria to return to the World Cup.

“The past is the past. There is a new dynamic now, with new people in charge,” Song, whose old international teammate Samuel Eto’o is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation, told recently.

Song is determined to make sure that their campaign is not overshadowed as it was in 2014, when players rowed over bonuses and Benoit Assou-Ekotto headbutted team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo during a 4-0 defeat by Croatia.

“I can tell you we will not be faced with the same problems that we had in Brazil,” added Song.

Country profile - Brazil

Best World Cup performance: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Other honours: Copa America winners 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2019; Confederations Cup winners 1997, 2005, 2009, 2013;  

FIFA ranking: 1

Main clubs: Flamengo, Palmeiras, Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Santos, Gremio

How they qualified: Unbeaten winners of the single South American qualifying group

Coach: Tite, 61, was appointed in 2016 and took over a national team still struggling to come to terms with their traumatic 7-1 defeat against Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup on home soil. He built a solid and well-balanced team around Neymar. While he has come in for some criticism for supposedly emphasising defence over attack, Tite survived a quarter-final exit at the 2018 World Cup and led the team to victory at the 2019 Copa America before taking them unbeaten through qualifying. Before becoming national coach, Tite won the Copa Libertadores and two Brazilian titles with Corinthians. He also led them to victory over Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup final.

Key player: Having reached the age of 30, Neymar knows this could be his last chance to win a World Cup after the agony of 2014 – when his tournament was ended by injury before he saw his team-mates collapse against Germany – and the disappointment of 2018. The former Santos prodigy left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record deal in 2017 but his move to France has not brought him the collective or individual honours he craves. He has not won the Champions League at PSG and he has still never won a Ballon d’Or. None of that will matter if he can lead Brazil to World Cup glory.

Group fixtures:

November 24: Brazil v Serbia

November 28: Brazil v Switzerland

December 2: Cameroon v Brazil


Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton.

Defenders: Dani Alves, Danilo, Alex Sandro, Alex Telles, Bremer, Eder Militao, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva.

Midfielders: Bruno Guimaraes, Casemiro, Everton Ribeiro, Fabinho, Fred, Lucas Paqueta.

Attackers: Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Neymar, Pedro, Raphinha, Richarlison, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior.

Country profile - Serbia

Best World Cup performance: Group stage in 2010 and 2018 (Yugoslavia reached semi-finals in 1930 and 1962)

Other notable performances: Yugoslavia were European Championship runners-up in 1960 and 1968

FIFA ranking: 21

Main clubs: Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade

How they qualified: Winners of European qualifying Group A ahead of Portugal

Coach: Dragan Stojkovic, 57, was appointed in February last year to succeed Ljubisa Tumbakovic, who was sacked after Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2020. He then led Serbia through an unbeaten qualifying campaign, with a last-gasp win in Portugal in their final game seeing them top their group. Stojkovic’s Serbia also topped their Nations League group to win promotion to the top tier. Stojkovic made 84 appearances for the former Yugoslavia between 1983 and 2001, and was one of the first top-tier European players to venture into Japanese football. There he spent eight years at J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight, playing under Arsene Wenger. Briefly served as chairman of Red Star Belgrade, for whom he also played. Coached in Japan and China before taking his current job.

Key player: Serbia have formidable attacking options, nore more so than Dusan Vlahovic. The 22-year-old forward is a robust presence up front but does not lack for pace or skill. After starting out at Partizan Belgrade, he joined Fiorentina and quickly became a prolific goal-scorer in Serie A. That earned him a 70 million-euro move to Juventus last January. In Turin he has so far averaged almost a goal every second game despite his club’s recent struggles. Given his age, his peak years still lie in the future, but Serbia will hope he thrives on the World Cup stage in Qatar. 

Group fixtures:

November 24: Brazil v Serbia

November 28: Cameroon v Serbia

December 2: Serbia v Switzerland


Goalkeepers: Marko Dmitrovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic

Defenders: Stefan Mitrovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Strahinja Pavlovic, Milos Veljkovic, Filip Mladenovic, Strahinja Erakovic, Srdjan Babic

Midfielders: Nemanja Gudelj, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Sasa Lukic, Marko Grujic, Filip Kostic, Uros Racic, Nemanja Maksimovic, Ivan Ilic, Andrija Zivkovic, Darko Lazovic

Forwards: Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Filip Djuricic, Luka Jovic, Nemanja Radonjic

Country profile - Switzerland

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954

Other notable performances: Euro 2020 quarter-finalists

FIFA ranking: 15

Main clubs: FC Basel, Young Boys, FC Zurich, Grasshopper, Servette

How they qualified: Winners of European qualifying Group C

Coach: Murat Yakin, 48, was appointed in August last year to succeed Vladimir Petkovic, who had taken the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with a penalty shoot-out win over France along the way. Yakin, who has Turkish roots, was a defender who won 49 caps for Switzerland and notably played for Grasshopper and Basel. His brother Hakan also played for the ‘Nati’. Yakin has coached several Swiss clubs, winning two league titles with Basel. He also had a spell at Spartak Moscow in 2014/15. His Swiss side topped their qualifying group ahead of Italy.

Key player: Forward Breel Embolo, 25, has pace and power in abundance and is hoping to take his early-season form with him to Qatar after leaving Borussia Moenchengladbach for Monaco in the summer. Born in Cameroon, he will get the chance to face the country of his birth in Switzerland’s opening group game. Embolo moved to Europe with his mother as a boy and went on to start his footballing career at Basel, where he was given his debut by Yakin. A big-money move to Schalke in 2016 was marred by injuries but as long as he stays fit he could have a key role to play in Qatar.

Group fixtures:

November 24: Switzerland v Cameroon

November 28: Brazil v Switzerland

December 2: Serbia v Switzerland


Goalkeepers: Gregor Kobel, Yann Sommer, Jonas Omlin, Philipp Kohn

Defenders: Manuel Akanji, Eray Comert, Nico Elvedi, Fabian Schar, Silvan Widmer, Ricardo Rodriguez, Edimilson Fernandes

Midfielders: Michel Aebischer, Xherdan Shaqiri, Renato Steffen, Granit Xhaka, Denis Zakaria, Fabian Frei, Remo Freuler, Noah Okafor, Fabian Rieder, Ardon Jashari

Forwards: Breel Embolo, Ruben Vargas, Djibril Sow, Haris Seferovic, Christian Fassnacht

Country profile - Cameroon

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finalists in 1990

Other honours: African champions in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017

FIFA ranking: 43

Main clubs: Coton Sport, Canon Yaounde

How they qualified: Cameroon defeated Algeria in a play-off

Coach: Rigobert Song, 46, is a Cameroon football legend having performed at four World Cups and helped the Indomitable Lions win the Africa Cup of Nations twice in eight tournament appearances. A centre-back, his club career spanned France, Italy, England, Germany and Turkey, including spells at Liverpool and West Ham United. Called the ‘Big Chief’, he suffered a stroke in 2016 and was in a coma for several days. Cameroon sacked Portuguese Toni Conceicao after a third-place finish as 2021 Cup of Nations hosts and coaching rookie Song masterminded a shock World Cup play-off victory over Algeria. Warm-up losses to Uzbekistan and fellow qualifiers South Korea have dampened spirits, however.

Key player: Bayern Munich’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, 33, goes to Qatar in outstanding form having scored in seven consecutive matches for the German giants in all competitions. Born in Hamburg to a Cameroonian father and German mother, he has a point to prove at the World Cup after being largely ignored during the Cup of Nations this year. Choupo-Moting was furious at being left out of the quarter-final and semi-final starting line-ups and accused Conceicao of being “disrespectful”. He began his senior career with Hamburg, played for three other German clubs and spent time at Stoke City and Paris Saint-Germain before joining Bayern two years ago.

Group fixtures:

November 24: Switzerland v Cameroon

November 28: Cameroon v Serbia

December 2: Cameroon v Brazil


Goalkeepers: Andre Onana, Devis Epassy, Simon Ngapandouetnbu

Defenders: Jean-Charles Castelletto, Enzo Ebosse, Collins Fai, Olivier Mbaizo, Nouhou Tolo, Nicolas Nkoulou, Christopher Wooh

Midfielders: Olivier Ntcham, Gael Ondoua, Martin Hongla, Pierre Kunde, Samuel Oum Gouet, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Jerome Ngom

Forwards: Nicolas Ngamaleu, Christian Bassogog, Bryan Mbeumo, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Jean-Pierre Nsame, Vincent Aboubakar, Karl Toko-Ekambi, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Souaibou Marou

With text inputs from AFP