Published on 6 Dec 2022 12:09 pm (UK Time)
The World Cup’s final group stages came to a close as South Korea overturned a deficit to beat Portugal while Brazil qualified as the first seed in a group of free-scoring affairs.
1. Brazil – 6 Points (GD: +2)
Brazil came into this World Cup as the biggest favourites for the competition, with squad depth and quality that will frighten any opposition they face in the tournament.
Serbia was the first to face off against the footballing supernation and despite their best efforts of frustrating Brazil, they eventually were convincingly brushed aside by a team that looked magical at times in offensive areas. Richarlison was in top form in this game as he executed an acrobatic overhead kick to score his second of the game.
Next on Brazil’s hit list was Switzerland, where they held the Brazilians out until the 83rd minute when Casemiro sweetly struck a perfectly placed half-volley into the top corner. A game that proved difficult for Brazil, as their attacking talent struggled to break down a compact Swiss team.
Although Brazil made nine changes from their match against Switzerland when they faced Cameroon, they dominated large spells of the game. However, Brazil was not able to capitalise on their dominance of the game, as they lost in the final moments, only topping the group on goal difference.
After successfully topping the group, Brazil faced South Korea as their next opponent in the round of 16. Brazil oozed in quality as they picked apart an unorganised South Korean defence, scoring at will in the first half and proceeding to qualify for the quarter-finals with a 4-1 victory.
2. Switzerland – 6 Points (GD: +1)
Switzerland qualified through the group level on points with Brazil, in a competitive group that saw them pushed all the way to make it to the round of 16.
The first side to challenge Switzerland in their qualification quest was Cameroon, where they found themselves in a tight affair. A tough contest that the Swiss edged through Breel Embolo’s strike shortly after halftime, claiming three massive points for his side.
Switzerland’s second group game was an encounter against one of the favourites for the tournament itself in Brazil. The Swiss were able to hold out the Brazilians until late on in the game, when a moment of brilliance from Casemiro separated the sides, leaving Switzerland empty-handed heading into their final game.
Needing a victory in their final game to take qualification into their own hands, they played Serbia in one of the games of the tournament. A 3-2 thriller went in favour of Switzerland, as they turned around a 2-1 deficit to defeat Serbia and qualify through the group.
Switzerland faces Portugal in the round of 16 and will look to frustrate the Portuguese in a similar fashion to how they gave Brazil problems earlier in the tournament.
3. Cameroon – 4 Points (GD: 0)
Cameroon will be leaving the World Cup with their heads held high, as despite not qualifying past the group stages, have acquired four points with a historic victory over Brazil in the dying moments of the match.
Cameroon’s World Cup campaign opened up against Switzerland, where they put in a strong performance, contesting the Swiss and being rather unlucky to suffer a defeat. An agonising loss that painfully came at the hands of Cameroon-born Breel Embolo, as he scored a goal that he refused to celebrate.
A blockbuster matchup took place in the second round of the groups as Cameroon faced off against Serbia. The scoring opened as Cameroon took the lead midway through the first half, however, Serbia hit back in stoppage time scoring twice before the break. Aleksandar Mitrovic rifled another into the net shortly after halftime, with most believing a result was out of reach for Cameroon. But Cameroon would not stop fighting, as they scored two goals in the space of three minutes sending the game back into a stalemate with both sides sharing the points in the end.
Brazil was up next for Cameroon in their final game of the group, in a match that many expected even Brazil’s second eleven to be strong enough to collect maximum points. However, heading into the final moments of the game, Cameroon had successfully held off the Brazilian attack with the score even. But in the 92nd minute, Vincent Aboubakar stepped up as an inviting cross was whipped into the box by Jerome Mbekeli. The forward towered over the Brazilian defence and guided it into the back of the net, securing his side three points that provided a moment that will go down in history for his nation.
4. Serbia – 1 Point (GD: -3)
A tournament that has left many questioning what went wrong, as Serbia’s talented squad goes to waste as they crash out of the World Cup without a win.
It all started against Brazil, where Serbia sat deep and cut off the spaces that Brazil’s talented attackers were able to work in. Their defensive resilience however was broken in the 62nd minute, as Richarlison fired his first of two excellent finishes past Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, inflicting the first defeat upon Serbia.
Serbia’s only point in the group came when they faced Cameroon, as they left this affair with the nightmare of what could have been. Serbia was two goals ahead in the 53rd minute and was sitting on a comfortable 3-1 lead against Cameroon. However, conceding two quick goals cost them dearly in this tournament, as three points turned into one with their qualification hopes shattering before their eyes.
Once again the ability to hold a lead escaped the Serbians, as they failed to capitalise on a lead against Switzerland in their final game. Another calamitous loss that Serbia will live to regret due to their inability to see out their hard work, conceding a total of eight goals across the three group games.
1. Portugal – 6 Points (GD: +2)
Portugal has finished relatively comfortably in the first position, with Bruno Fernandes stepping up for his side, scoring two goals and assisting twice.
Portugal got their first taste of the World Cup in an encounter against Ghana, where a spirited Ghanaian display proved a tricky side to pass for Portugal. The floodgates opened in the 65th minute when a controversial penalty was cooly dispatched by legendary forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Ghana equalised eight minutes later, however two minutes of mayhem defensively for Ghana saw them concede twice. The Ghanaians were not finished though as they pulled one back in the 89th minute and agonisingly missed a glorious last-minute opportunity to equalise, leaving the score 3-2 in favour of Portugal.
Bruno Fernandes was unlucky not to have a hat trick in a glorious display against Uruguay from the Portuguese playmaker. Portugal dominated the possession in this matchup, however, did come under pressure late on with a flimsy 1-0 lead. But Portugal fended off Uruguay’s late efforts and was awarded a late penalty, sending them through the round of 16 with a game to spare.
Portugal made six changes for their final fixture against South Korea, in a group they were already comfortably in charge of. But Portugal’s chance to accrue the full nine points was halted by a South Korean comeback, as a second-string Portuguese side was beaten by a stoppage-time winner for South Korea.
Portugal will play Switzerland in the next round of the tournament in a fixture where Portugal will need to stay patient and control a dangerous Switzerland side, as Switzerland has the tools to cause an upset.
2. South Korea – 4 Points (GD: 0)
South Korea go through on goals scored, after scoring the exact same points and goal difference as Uruguay.
The journey to qualification kicked off to a slow start when South Korea held Uruguay to a scoreless draw. A matchup that had relatively little to discuss, with a draw being an even reflection of a game that neither side did enough to win.
South Korean hearts were broken in their second fixture against Ghana, as they came back to equalise from a 2-0 deficit, only to eventually be beaten 3-2. After this devastating loss, South Korea’s hopes of qualification were seemingly out of reach, with the task of defeating Portugal looming large.
Needing to beat Portugal to have a chance at qualifying in their last game, expectancies were not high for South Korea. Normal service resumed in the 5th minute of the game as Portugal took the lead, however, South Korea flipped Portugal’s 1-0 advantage on its head through a last-minute winner by Hee-Chan Hwang, sending them through to the next round on goals scored.
After the high of last-minute qualification, South Korea’s round of 16 games against Brazil was a reality shock, as Brazil eased to a comfortable victory. South Korea gave too much time and space for Brazil’s talented frontline to exploit their backline, leaving them in a 4-0 deficit at halftime. The South Koreans managed one back in the second half but after a shocking defensive display in the first half, the match ended 4-1, sending South Korea home.
3. Uruguay – 4 Points (GD: 0)
With expectations as one of the tournaments ‘dark horses’ to compete for the trophy itself, Uruguay failed to impress in the group stages, not offering enough to justify qualification into the next phase of the tournament.
Early signs appeared in Uruguay’s matchup against South Korea, as both sides did not look sharp in the attacking areas. A scoreless draw against beatable opposition for a Uruguayan side full of quality will be seen as a missed opportunity to lay a marker down in the tournament to build from.
A loss against Portugal followed, spelling bad signs for Uruguay, as their ambitions of venturing deep into the tournament were beginning to fade. Despite giving a good account of themselves against Portugal, a 2-0 defeat was all that mattered, as they had to win their next game for a chance of qualification.
A win is what they needed against Ghana and a win is what they attained, but it still was not enough. Despite Uruguay edging the contest 2-0, South Korea’s late winner against Portugal meant that they would qualify ahead of Uruguay, breaking Uruguayan hearts, and sending them crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages.
4. Ghana – 3 Points (GD: -2)
Ghana finished bottom of Group H after competing well in one of the tournament’s trickier groups.
Portugal was first up for Ghana, in a match where the Ghanaians showcased their qualities. Portugal was in control for most of this fixture, but Ghana competed until the final moments of the game. Inaki Williams slipped over, failing to profit from a gifted opportunity from the Portuguese goalkeeper, leaving the game ending in a grueling 3-2 defeat for Ghana.
Ghana needed a result in their next game to have any hope of qualification beyond the group stages and at halftime, Ghana had a comfortable 2-0 lead against South Korea. But two goals in three minutes saw Ghana’s comfortable lead vanish, as South Korea drew level. But this did not phase Ghana, as Mohammed Kudus stepped up, scoring the winner of this contest and propelling Ghana’s hopes at qualification forward with three points.
Needing a draw at the minimum to have a chance at qualification, Ghana faced a familiar foe as they meet Uruguay. A game where Ghana painfully could not find the back of the net. However, despite being knocked out of the tournament themselves, Ghana inflicted its own version of revenge on Uruguay, as Uruguay exited the competition in the process due to a lack of goals scored.