We’ve seen Argentina and Germany go down in the past two days. Will Brazil also fall victim to a big upset in its opening match?
The last eight teams to take the field for the 2022 World Cup will do so on Thursday. Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay are among the teams in action as Groups G and H start.
Kickoff time: 5 a.m. ET/10 a.m. GMT
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
If Switzerland is to make it to the knockout phase for the third straight World Cup, this match is a must-win. With Brazil expected to win Group G, results are essential for both teams in this one.
Some of Switzerland’s big names are back from four years ago with Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka captaining the side and former Liverpool and Bayern Munich attacker Xherdan Shaqiri still in the squad. Shaqiri is not coming to Qatar in the best of form though. He fell out of favor at Lyon before failing to consistently stand out for the Chicago Fire in MLS.
Cameroon hasn’t made it out of the group stage since a quarterfinal run in 1990 and has one win in its last five World Cup appearances. The Indomitable Lions have lost their last seven World Cup matches.
Kickoff time: 8 a.m. ET/1 p.m. GMT
Venue: Education City, Al Rayyan
Throughout the course of history it’s not often that in a meeting between South Korea and Uruguay that South Korea would have the best player on the field. Son Heung-min is the captain of the Koreans and the Tottenham striker can give his nation a chance in a mostly balanced group.
Most of the rest of the Korean squad will be unfamiliar to many fans. South Korea has other players based in European leagues, but 14 players are from the domestic K League and four others play elsewhere in Asia.
Uruguay has big names, but many are past their primes. Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde and Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez will be making their World Cup debuts as part of the next generation, but Luis Suarez (35 years old), Fernando Muslera (36), Diego Godin (36) Edinson Cavani (35) and Martin Caceres (35) each have more than 100 caps to their names. That World Cup experience could be a boost for the squad, but the younger players will likely have to take starring roles.
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. ET/4 p.m. GMT
Venue: Stadium 974, Doha
Cristiano Ronaldo is always newsworthy as one of the most famous athletes on the planet, but he has been in the news for slightly different reasons in the lead up to this tournament. His unhappy situation at Manchester United is distracting from what is expected to be his last World Cup.
Can the 37-year-old help his nation win its first World Cup? The days of him carrying a team to victory are likely behind him, but Portugal still has Man U teammate Bruno Fernandes, Man City’s Bernardo Silva and Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix among others as part of a talented squad. Ronaldo isn’t even the oldest player on the squad with 39-year-old Pepe taking part in his fourth World Cup.
Ghana didn’t make a World Cup until 2006, but is making its fourth appearance in the last five tournaments. Americans are familiar with Ghana because the two countries managed to play each other in three straight World Cups from 2006-2014. A meeting in this tournament would happen in the semifinals, at the earliest.
There won’t be many familiar names on the squad though. The Black Stars have the youngest median squad age in the tournament at 23.5. Captain Andrew Ayew has been a stalwart with more than 100 caps. Ayew plays in the Qatari league for Al-Sadd.
Kickoff time: 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT
Venue: Lusail Stadium, Lusail
Brazil is the tournament favorite, which won’t come as a surprise to casual fans. It’s been 20 years since Brazil won a World Cup, which probably feels like an eternity in Brazil. With one title in the last five Copa Americas (2019), this hasn’t been a golden age for the Seleção.
However, this is a balanced, talented and deep squad. That depth could be a big boost in a tournament with a condensed schedule. Neymar is the face of the squad, but is far from the team’s only star: Richarlison (Tottenham), Fabinho (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) and goalkeeper Alisson (Liverpool) just to name a few.
What can Serbia do to stop this team? Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has 50 goals for Serbia in 76 caps. Him and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus) are part of a dangerous attack that can be direct when needed, and that will likely be needed against Brazil. Serbia went undefeated in World Cup qualifying in a group that included Portugal and Ireland.
World Cup 2022 Group G guide: Tadic’s corners, Swiss pressing and a more complete Neymar
World Cup 2022 Group H guide: Bernardo Silva the orchestrator and Uruguay’s last dance
(Photo of Neymar: Justin Setterfield / Getty Images)