Happy Thanksgiving! Today our FIFA overlords have brought us four solid matches to warm things up before the tryptophan kicks in and your crazy uncle starts sharing his thoughts on politics. Let’s preview the matches and squads before the first kick at 4 AM.
Switzerland v. Cameroon
The Rossocrociati v. the Indomitable Lions. Frankly, if we’re basing things off of nicknames, this might be the premier match of the day. The Indomitable Lions? Hell yea. Switzerland enters the tournament ranked 15th in the world while Cameroon is one of the lower ranked squads at 43. However, the Cameroonian team has plenty of top end talent and can certainly get a result against Switzerland.
Both teams have MLS ties as Xherdan (Jordan) Shaqiri plays for both the Swiss team and the Chicago Fire. Cameroon features Nouhou Tolo and Oliver Mbaizo of the Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union respectively. Both teams feature plenty of Champions League talent but lack the highest tier talent found with squads like Brazil and Belgium.
Switzerland had a brutal start to 2022 losing four of their first five matches of the season before turning it around in June. Interestingly enough, they lost a warm up match to Ghana, 2-0. Ghana, like Cameroon, represents the CAF, but is ranked 61st in the world.
Cameroon has largely been more successful this year, but their last four games featured two losses and two draws.
FiveThirtyEIght gives Switzerland a 50% chance of winning and Cameroon only a 28% chance of grabbing all three points.
David’s Prediction: 0-0 draw
Uruguay v. South Korea
La Celeste v. the Taegeuk Warriors. More star power in this match that kicks at 7AM.
Uruguay features two MLS players: Facundo Torres of Orlando City and Martin Caceres of the LA Galaxy. However, it’s Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani who are the household names. Uruguay features a substantial amount of veteran talent in their final World Cup cycle. Uruguay is ranked 14th in the world by FIFA and is given a 53% chance of winning the match per FiveThirtyEight.
South Korea features one of the happiest players in the world, Son Heung-Min. Sonny, as Tottenham fans know him, is perhaps the most famous person in South Korea and has won the Asian footballer of the year award seven times. Son shared the Premier League Golden Boot last year but has had a rough start to the 2022-23 campaign. He’ll be donning a mask today after a facial fracture in Champions League play. The rest of the South Korean team only features five players in Top 5 leagues. The majority of the squad plays in the domestic K-League which is home to former Sporting Kansas City forward, Gerso.
David’s Prediction: Uruguay 2-0 win.
Portugal v. Ghana
The Fighting Ronaldos v. the Black Stars.
On paper this isn’t much of a contest. Portugal is loaded with talent. They feature players from Manchester City, PSG, Atletico Madrid, and any number of other Premier League and Champions League clubs. Joao Felix is a special talent. Ronaldo is... unemployed. But make no mistake, this Portugal side is stacked. Ranked 9th in the world by FIFA, FiveThirtyEight gives them a 70% chance of winning the match.
That said, Ghana isn’t full of slouches. Ghana’s front line is anchored by Jordan Ayew, who has 19 international goals, but plays club football for Crystal Palace of the Premier League. Thomas Partey (who has some really controversial allegations hanging over his head) is the rock in the midfield for the Black Stars and is playing very well for Arsenal. This Ghanian team is very, very talented and can make a game of it if Portugal isn’t focused.
David’s Prediction: a plucky loss for Ghana that makes Portugal sweat a bit. 2-1 Portugal.
Brazil v. Serbia
The highlight of my day. My beloved Selecao (I don’t know how to do the fun characters to properly reflect the Portuguese spelling and pronunciation) v. the Eagles. This is a great time to remind all of you that national team nicknames are just the best. Truly a highlight of international play.
Brazil is ranked 1st in the world by FIFA. They haven’t lost in 2022 and their only draw of the year was back in January. Brazil’s last loss was in July 2021 against Argentina in the Copa America final. Prior to that, it was November of 2019, again to Argentina. Simply put, this Brazilian team is a juggernaut.
Brazil’s front line will be a rotation of Richarlison (Tottenham), Neymar (PSG), Vinicius Jr. (Real Madrid), Antony (Man U), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), and Raphinha (Barcelona). Neymar is a nailed on starter but the rest of the front line can be rotated in and out. In their final tune up before the world cup, Richarlison started up top with Raphina, Neymar, and Lucas Paqueta (West Ham) behind him. Brazil features two of the best keepers in the world, Ederson and Alisson. Alisson seems to have won the starting job, but both are proficient with their feet and play strongly between the pipes.
Brazil is arguably light in the midfield with six midfielders on the roster. However, Casemiro is no stranger to big moments nor is Fabinho. Bruno Guimaraes is a burgeoning star in the Premier League and is looking to break out on the international stage in Qatar.
For as good as Brazil is, Serbia can’t be taken lightly. They’ve won five of their last six matches and feature a roster loaded with players from Serie A and La Liga. Most notably, Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus and Aleksander Mitrovic of Fulham are the tip of the spear and know how to bag goals. Mitrovic has 50 goals in 76 international caps. He’ll be looking to exploit Brazil’s aging back line. Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic anchor the midfield and are both veterans of both international competition and high level club competition.
Serbia is ranked 21st in the world. FiveThirtyEight gives Brazil a 68% chance of winning with Serbia only getting 11%. Brazil are the betting favorites to win the whole tournament and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 22% chance of winning a sixth World Cup. Spain comes in 2nd at 11%. Believe it or not, the United States is given a 1% chance which is above 13 other teams.
David’s Prediction: Brazil 3-0 win
Notes from Wednesday’s games:
Japan’s upset of Germany flipped Group E on it’s head. Spain set a record for the biggest margin of victory and most goals scored. Spanish wunderkind (or wonderkid if you watch Ted Lasso), Gavi, became the third youngest goal scorer ever yesterday with a gorgeous goal off the outside of his right foot.
Canada lost to Belgium 1-0 but looked like they belonged. Canada probably had the better of the first half and superstar, Alphonso Davies, had a PK saved by Thibalt Courtois. Despite the result, this performance had to be encouraging for Les Rouges.
Finally, I wanted to say that I’m thankful for you all. TBT is a really special community and has been a really wonderful place to talk soccer and follow our team, even when things were bad this year. I’m thankful to Thad for letting me write for the site and I’m thankful for all of you for reading and contributing. It’s been a blast talking about everything from soccer to farming and PVIn or PVOut. Enjoy the games today and enjoy your holiday. Don’t forget to wear stretchy pants or get the quick release on that top button on your jeans if you go for a second helping of sweet potatoes.
VAI BRASIL! VAI A SELECAO!