World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Final day of group stage

Nov 30, 2022, 9:41 PM | Updated: Dec 1, 2022, 11:50 am
Brazil's Pedro exercises during a training session at the Grand Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar, Thurs...

Brazil's Pedro exercises during a training session at the Grand Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Brazil will face Cameroon in a group G World Cup soccer match on Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

(AP Photo/Andre Penner)

              Uruguay's Luis Suarez , center reacts after he missed to score during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              Uruguay's Luis Suarez and Maxi Gomez, right, react after a missed chance to score during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
            
              Switzerland's head coach Murat Yakin attends a closed training session of Swiss national soccer team on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 soccer match against Serbia at the University of Doha for Science and Technology training facilities, in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. The Swiss national soccer team plays in group G of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. (KEYSTONE/Laurent Gillieron)
            
              Switzerland's Breel Embolo, left, and Brazil's Eder Militao vie for the ball during the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Switzerland, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
            
              Remo Freuler, Switzerland's midfielder Fabian Rieder, Switzerland's midfielder Denis Zakaria and Switzerland's defender Fabian Schaer attend a closed training session of Swiss national soccer team on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 soccer match against Serbia at the University of Doha for Science and Technology training facilities, in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. The Swiss national soccer team plays in group G of the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.  (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
            
              Switzerland's midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, left, and Switzerland's midfielder Djibril Sow, right, attend a closed training session of Swiss national soccer team on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 soccer match against Serbia at the University of Doha for Science and Technology training facilities, in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. The Swiss national soccer team plays in group G of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
            
              Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
            
              South Korea's Kim Young-gwon warms up during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Portugal, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              South Korea's Son Heung-min warms up during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Portugal, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              Brazil's Marquinhos practices during a training session at the Grand Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Brazil will face Cameroon in a group G World Cup soccer match on Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
            
              Brazil's Pedro exercises during a training session at the Grand Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Brazil will face Cameroon in a group G World Cup soccer match on Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
            
              Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his side's opening goal with Portugal's Bruno Fernandes during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Uruguay, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              Serbia's Strahinja Pavlovic celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the World Cup group G soccer match between Cameroon and Serbia, at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
            
              Ghana's Mohammed Kudus celebrates after he scored his side's second goal during the World Cup group H soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Brazil and Portugal already advanced into the knockout round so the focus on the final day of World Cup group play should be on the six other teams trying to avoid elimination.

Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon, South Korea, Ghana and Uruguay all have a chance on Friday to reach the last 16.

Alas, the spotlight will still be on Brazil and Portugal.

Both teams need to either win or draw in their games to guarantee top spot in their respective groups and avoid a head-to-head match in the knockout round.

“If we had to face each other, it would be a game between two great teams,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “But our wish, and Brazil’s, is that we meet later on.”

Brazil will be without Neymar for its match against Cameroon. The star forward injured his right ankle in Brazil’s opening match and the team plans to reevaluate his status after the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to play for Portugal even though he missed Wednesday’s training. Santos didn’t reveal whether he plans to rest the 37-year-old team captain for the knockout round

“If he is well enough physically, he will be playing,” Santos said. “I don’t even know if the chance is 50-50. It depends on our training session. I hope he’ll be able to play.”

CAMEROON-BRAZIL

Neymar is for sure out against Cameroon, and many of Brazil’s stars may join him on the sideline.

Brazil can guarantee the top spot in Group G with a draw, so coach Tite was expected to make changes at nearly every position against Cameroon.

“Tite had already told us after the game against Switzerland that he intended to make changes in the lineup,” Brazil midfielder Fabinho said. “He said he wanted everyone to play and we are happy with that decision.”

Tite planned to use only reserve players: Ederson will replace Alisson in goal, and Dani Alves, Fabinho, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli are all expected to start.

If the 39-year-old Alves does play, he would become the oldest Brazilian to play at a World Cup — ahead of the 38-year-old Thiago Silva, who is Brazil’s captain in Qatar. Alves’ last game at a World Cup was in the round of 16 of the 2014 tournament in Brazil. He was injured four years ago in Russia.

Cameroon needs to beat Brazil and that might not be enough to advance past the group stage for the first time since its run to the quarterfinals in 1990. But Cameroon is at the mercy of other match results, and if both Serbia and Cameroon win its games, then advancing would come down to goal difference.

“We are going to be focused and very disciplined for the whole 90 minutes,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said. “I want to see the determination and commitment that will allow us to get the three points.”

Cameroon sent goalkeeper Andre Onana home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with Song. He was dropped from the lineup before Cameroon’s second game and the Inter Milan goalkeeper was sent home at the beginning of the week.

SERBIA-SWITZERLAND

It’s a head-to-head elimination match between Serbia and Switzerland in Group G.

A draw for Switzerland is enough if Brazil wins or draws in its match against Cameroon. But if Cameroon beat Brazil and the Swiss take a point, then second place will be decided by goal difference.

Switzerland isn’t even thinking about a draw.

“I don’t know a single team in the world that would go on the pitch aiming for a 0-0. That’s really dangerous,” Switzerland midfielder Djibril Sow said.

Switzerland has advanced out of group play into the knockout round the past two World Cups and the past two European Championships.

Serbia hasn’t played a World Cup knockout match since becoming an independent nation. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic said Serbia’s must-win position was expected.

“Of course. When we saw the draw and the schedule, we knew that everything would depend on the last game,” the midfielder said. “We need to take this opportunity with both hands.”

Serbia’s draw with Cameroon was a lost chance because Serbia was leading 3-1 in the second half.

GHANA-URUGUAY

The Ghana against Uruguay match is a repeat of one of the World Cup’s most contentious games: Luis Suárez in 2010 used a deliberate handball on the goal line at the end of extra time in the quarterfinals to deny Ghana a certain goal and a place in history as the first African team to reach the semifinals.

Suárez was sent off for the handball but celebrated wildly on the sidelines when Asamoah Gyan hit the penalty off the crossbar. Uruguay won the ensuing penalty shootout.

“Truth is, it was worth it,” Suárez said in 2010 and hasn’t changed his mind in the 12 years since.

“I don’t apologize, because I take the handball and the red card but the Ghana player missed the penalty. It’s not my fault because I didn’t miss the penalty,” Suárez said before the rematch.

A win by Ghana would avenge the moment by advancing the team to the round of 16 out of Group H. Uruguay would be eliminated.

“For me, it’s not a big topic,” Ghana coach Otto Addo said. “I would expect every player to do all he can to make sure his team goes through. Even sacrificing himself with a red card. What happened in 2010 is very sad, but we can’t change it. We want to look forward and we want to win this game.”

Uruguay still has Suárez, who at 35 is likely playing in his final World Cup. Uruguay must beat Ghana and hope South Korea doesn’t beat Portugal to avoid elimination. Goal difference will decide it if Uruguay and South Korea both win.

Stoking it just a little bit more, Suárez said the 2010 game against Ghana does still mean something to Uruguay.

“We are going to put our lives and soul into this match,” Suarez said. “Ghana is a good team, but we know them. We have beaten them before and we know how to beat them again.”

SOUTH KOREA-PORTUGAL

Portugal needs a win or a draw against South Korea to guarantee first place in Group H.

That would also mean the team would avoid facing Brazil in the last 16 if the South American team also tops its group.

“If we had to face each other, it would be a game between two great teams,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “But our wish, and Brazil’s, is that we meet later on.”

Santos said he wasn’t planning to rest too many key players against South Korea. Cristiano Ronaldo may be an exception.

Three games in nine days could prove to be too much for the 37-year-old forward, who hasn’t played significant minutes this season for Manchester United.

Ronaldo missed team training on Wednesday, instead completing a session in the gym, and there’s a chance he will be saved for the last 16. That would give the likes of Gonçalo Ramos or Andre Silva a rare chance to start up front.

___

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World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Final day of group stage