9 min: Cameroon are giving as good as they’re getting right now. Brazil’s second string haven’t quite got used to each other yet.
7 min: Now Militao goes into the book for a pretty clumsy high-kick on Ngamaleu. The referee wags his finger and has the look of a man who means business.
6 min: Antony spins Tolo with an outrageous feint and makes off down the right flank. Tolo, no doubt feeling affronted, hacks Antony down from behind and goes into the book. It might be a long night for the Cameroon left-back.
4 min: Other than that, a quiet start as both teams allow their defence to get an early feel of the ball.
2 min: Telles passes the ball out of play. Then Anguissa ships possession far too easily, before Brazil collectively run down a cul-de-sac. All a bit scrappy during the early exchanges. Then suddenly a burst of quality from Brazil, as Antony romps down the right and slips a ball infield in the hope of finding Fred. Not quite. Cameroon clear their lines.
Brazil get the ball rolling. They stroke it around the back in the non-urgent style.
The teams are out! Cameroon are in their green, red and gold, while the other lot are giving off strong Cowdenbeath vibes tonight: it’s blue Brazil! “I was curious where the Brazil-Cameroon game in the 1994 World Cup was played, and it turned out to be Stanford Stadium near San Francisco,” begins Matt Burtz. “Cameroon didn’t have much luck playing there, as they lost 6-1 to Russia four days later. The stadium’s capacity has since been reduced by about 30,000. Being born in 1981 this was the first World Cup I was aware of (being held here in the US certainly helped; I honestly don’t know if the US’s games in 1990 were televised) and it’s hard to believe that it was almost thirty years ago now.” Time flies all right, and the game will begin in a couple of those all-too-fleeting moments.
PENNANT WATCH. It’s a slightly farcical PENNANT WATCH today, because we don’t have the rights to the photos that have been taken of them. But nothing can stop me. The MBM has previously talked of the leonine majesty of Brazil’s yellow-maned effort, but I can report that Cameroon’s official trinket is also an absolute cracker, dark-green with lush golden tassels. Not only that, they’ll be presenting a small wooden shield bearing the federation crest in a blue velvet-lined box. That’d look lovely displayed on the mantlepiece, next to a banker’s table lamp and crystal decanter containing a little something from Speyside. Ten out of ten for Brazil, but Cameroon’s pennant-o-meter™ result goes all the way up to 11.
A couple of stats that sum up the size and scale of Cameroon’s task tonight. They need to win, and while they might be playing Brazil’s second string, that’s one heck of a B-team. Brazil and Cameroon have met at the World Cup on two previous occasions, and the Seleção have won both games: 3-0 at USA 94, 4-1 at home in 2014. Brazil have played African sides five other times at World Cups, and they’ve won all of those as well: seven games in total, seven wins, 20 goals scored, just two conceded. Godspeed Indomitable Lions.
Both teams have been giving it plenty as they make their way to the ground. The ITV network hasn’t sounded this good since the days of The Roxy.
Much as expected, Tite has made sweeping changes to the Brazil starting XI. He’s made nine of them, with only defender Eder Militao and midfielder Fred keeping their places from the Switzerland game. Dani Alves, at 39, becomes Brazil’s oldest player at a World Cup finals. The injured Neymar will be watching from the stands.
Cameroon have made four changes in the wake of the 3-3 draw against Serbia. Nicolas Nkoulou, Jean-Charles Castelletto, Martin Hongla and Karl Toko Ekambi make way for Christopher Wooh, Enzo Ebosse, Nicolas Ngamaleu and Vincent Aboubakar.
Cameroon: Epassy, Fai, Wooh, Ebosse, Tolo, Zambo Anguissa, Kunde, Mbeumo, Choupo-Moting, Ngamaleu, Aboubakar.
Subs: Ngapandouetnbu, Mbekeli, Ondoua, Nkoudou, Nsame, Bassogog, Toko Ekambi, Gouet, Mbaizo, Ntcham, Marou.
Brazil: Ederson, Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Bremer, Alex Telles, Fabinho, Fred, Antony, Rodrygo, Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus.
Subs: Alisson, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison, Raphinha, Weverton, Bruno Guimaraes, Vinicius Junior, Everton Ribeiro, Pedro.
Referee: Ismail Elfath (USA).
Brazil have already qualified for the knockouts, though there is some jeopardy for them tonight. If they lose against Cameroon, they could be denied top spot in Group G should Switzerland beat Serbia in the other game. In that scenario, top spot would be decided by goal difference.
Cameroon meanwhile need a win to progress, and only then if Switzerland fail to beat Serbia in the other game. A draw between Serbia and Switzerland would leave second place decided by goal difference between Cameroon and the Swiss; a Serbia win would leave second place decided by goal difference between Cameroon and the Serbs.
It could potentially get more complicated, should goal difference not decide everything. But let’s not go down the route of goals scored, disciplinary points, or the drawing of lots. Not yet. Not while we don’t have to. Kick off is at 7pm GMT, 10pm at the Iconic Stadium in Lusail. انه يحدث! It’s on!