The fifth day of the 2022 World Cup started slowly but ended with a bang, thanks in part to Portugal, Ghana and Brazil putting on a show in the last two games of the day.
Switzerland and Cameroon played a tightly contested match separated by just one single goal, with Breel Embolo’s celebration unprecedented at a World Cup.
Meanwhile, Uruguay and South Korea found themselves in a scoreless stalemate.
The tournament provided more action once Portugal and Ghana entered the field, with Ronaldo breaking another record with his goal from the penalty spot. However, everyone expected Brazil to kick off their campaign and after a nervy opening 45 minutes, Richarlison provided the samba magic worthy of winning any game.
Off the pitch, the political minefield continues, with several nations and peoples refusing to follow Germany’s lead in protest against FIFA.
That being said, here’s a look at the main talking points from the fifth day of action at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Games are either exciting or boring – there’s no in-between
One thing that is becoming evident at the 2022 World Cup is that the matches are either full of thrilling action with plenty of goals scored, or they are lackluster affairs with two teams struggling to create clear chances in the game.
The first game of the day, between Switzerland and Cameroon, had some energy but lacked any real quality – apart from the goal scored by Breel Embolo early in the second half. Then Uruguay and South Korea played an incredibly boring game.
Uruguay only managed one shot on target, while South Korea managed none.
Teams like Switzerland, Cameroon, Uruguay and South Korea should learn from Ghana and Portugal. Sure, the first half was a wet squib, but both teams came out after halftime eager to attack and entertain the fans.
Granted, Serbia played defensively against Brazil knowing that a result would set them up perfectly for their final two group matches, but there was still a complete lack of desire to find a winner.
It makes sense that teams are desperate not to lose their tournament opener, but there have already been four goalless draws at this World Cup – in 2018 there was just one. .
Teams just need to pull the handbrake off and attack – hopefully with early games away this will be more likely to happen. Nations will need results if they are to qualify for the knockout stages, which could leave them more exposed at the back as they go in search of a goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo is not finished yet
Cristiano Ronaldo has had a tumultuous few weeks.
He first slammed Manchester United, his teammates and everyone in between in an explosive interview with Piers Morgan, before having his contract terminated by the club on Tuesday. Consequently, he became a free agent for the World Cup, with many question marks over his performance at 37.
However, he duly responded to those criticisms by becoming the first male player to score in five World Cups with his penalty against Ghana. OK, it was a penalty, but he still managed to win the free kick and looked sharp throughout the game, despite a few missed chances.
He is now targeting Eusebio’s record nine goals for Portugal at the tournament – Ronaldo currently has eight World Cup goals for his country. Although Eusebio managed all nine goals in a single edition, in 1966, he therefore has his work cut out to compete with the Portuguese great.
Brazil are rightly favorites
Brazil and Serbia were the last two teams to kick off their 2022 World Cup campaigns, and the first half showed it. Both teams seemed a bit nervous at the start, especially Brazil who couldn’t keep up their usual pace.
However, a poacher’s finish from Richarlison, followed by a sublime contender of the tournament goal from the Tottenham striker, put Brazil on the way to a convincing 2-0 win over Serbia in their Champions League game. opening. In attack in the second half, Brazil played with a flair and verve that seemed extremely difficult to match, while the defense seemed unfazed with the few attacks Dusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic were able to muster.
Proving why they are the favorites to win their sixth World Cup, and the first in 20 years, strikers such as Gabriel Jesus, Rodrygo and Antony have all managed to come off the bench too. Indeed, their strength in depth is unmatched in any other team and could prove crucial in the later stages that Brazil seem inevitably destined to reach.
Some nations reluctant to follow German protest
Germany received widespread praise on Wednesday as their players protested ahead of the game against Japan.
Ahead of the match, all 11 players in their starting lineup covered their mouths in the official photo, a sign that they would not be silenced by FIFA following pressure from the organization to stop teams wearing the OneLove armband.
Captains from nine nations had to wear the armband, which represents tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights, until a last-minute U-turn before the opening matches.
But Germany’s move also came under fire after the match as Hansi Flick’s side suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Japan and now other nations appear reluctant to protest.
Belgian striker Eden Hazard told RMC Sport: “They would have done better if they hadn’t done it and tried to win. We’re here to play football – I’m not here to send a political message . People are better suited for that. We want to focus on football.”
And speaking to the media on Thursday, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal echoed those thoughts, stressing he wanted to avoid a possible distraction for his players.
“I don’t want to take that risk, we are here to be world champions,” he said. “We have put an end to all the political questions [last] Thursday where we invited the migrants and we have this goal. We are not going to have that tarnished by the actions of FIFA or any other organization.”
England manager Gareth Southgate has also hinted it’s time to focus on what’s happening on the pitch. “Right now, for the players and myself in particular, we have to focus on the games,” he said.
It remains to be seen how its players and other nations will react, but Qatar and FIFA will no doubt be delighted that the teams now choose to focus on football.
Not celebrating a World Cup goal is now a thing
We’ve seen it regularly in club football over the years: players don’t party against their old clubs. Love it or hate it, the gesture is quite common these days. But we had never seen that in the World Cup.
That changed on Thursday when Switzerland’s Breel Embolo broke the deadlock early in the second half of his side’s Group G encounter with Cameroon and held up his hands in apology.
Embolo was born in Cameroon and lived in the capital Younde until he was five or six years old. After the divorce of his parents, he moved to France and then to Switzerland with his mother.
He obtained Swiss citizenship in 2014 and began his football career with FC Basel, making his international debut the following year.
Embolo has already scored against Portugal, England and Spain, but this goal was special as it came at a World Cup and against his home nation. He also turned out to be the winner.
“Since the draw, this is like the 10,000th time I’ve gotten this question [about facing Cameroon]”, he told SNTV before the match. “That’s the reason why I laugh a little. But it’s very special, it’s my home country, my mum and dad are from there, all my family, most of them, so it’s a special game for me and my family .”
And after the match, he wrote on Instagram: “It is the Lord who goes before you. ‘Special day’.
It must have been very special indeed and despite the defeat, his gesture of respect was surely appreciated by the people of Cameroon.