DOHA: Breel Embolo scored against the country of his birth as Switzerland defeated Cameroon 1-0 to make a winning start to their World Cup campaign on Thursday.
Embolo struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points in Group G which includes tournament favourites Brazil and Serbia.
“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon. I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”
Cameroon have now lost their last eight World Cup matches going back to 2002.
Coach Rigobert Song said his team’s low ranking meant nothing coming into the tournament, but Cameroon’s eighth World Cup appearance risks being another brief one.
“It’s a feeling of disappointment. We wanted more but football at this level is decided by small details. There was a brief let-up and we conceded a goal,” said Song.
“But we know everything is still possible. We still have two games to play and we know we have no more room for error.”
Roger Milla was presented with an award before kick-off as the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history, a reminder of past glories for Cameroon who have won just one game since reaching the quarter-finals 32 years ago.
Song, who played at four World Cups including with a 42-year-old Milla in 1994, opted for the in-form Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to lead the attack in place of usual captain Vincent Aboubakar.
African teams had made an encouraging start in Qatar after all five failed to get past the group stage in 2018, but Cameroon will regret not making more of a first half they controlled.
Bryan Mbeumo fired at Sommer after a superb ball through from Martin Hongla before Karl Toko Ekambi lashed over the rebound.
Sommer then got down low to save from Choupo-Moting after he pinched the ball away from Manuel Akanji, although a questionable foul was given against the Bayern Munich striker.
Silvan Widmer made a vital challenge to stop Toko Ekambi from turning in a cross from Collins Fai and Sommer pushed away a weak effort by Hongla.
Akanji glanced wide at a corner as Cameroon switched off on the stroke of half-time but there was no such escape when they were again caught napping at the start of the second half.
Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler combined to work the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo.
The Cameroon-born Embolo chose not to celebrate, holding his hands up apologetically.
Choupo-Moting neatly weaved his way past a couple of defenders in the box but couldn’t beat Sommer from a tight angle.
Andre Onana kept his team in the game with a brilliant stop to deny Ruben Vargas in an almost carbon copy of Embolo’s goal but Cameroon never looked like finding an equaliser.
Only a desperate block prevented Haris Seferovic from adding a late second for the Swiss.