Korea need snookers to avoid leaving this, a tournament on Asian soil, with a disappointing whimper. Portugal are all but assured of top spot in the group and will surely opt to rest some players but Cristiano Ronaldo may not be among them as he chases goals he can legitimately claim.
The historical context here has been delved into plenty. So instead let’s look at the numbers: a draw could well be enough for the Africans to progress. They’ve scored five times already and you’d expect more here. Uruguay have failed to score in three of their last four.
Tite finds time to tinker. What a nice luxury for the Brazilian manager who is likely to shuffle the entire deck here. Cameroon are still alive but Rigobert Song needs a win and some favours across town too.
While the Ghana-Uruguay beef has got most of the attention, this one has some serious niggle. Granit Xhaka’s double-headed eagle celebration when the sides met in 2018 ignited all sorts of ignominy. As a straight shoot-out, this should be very tasty.
In spite of his captain trying to quite literally steal his stats, the raw numbers and the eye test tell us that Bruno Fernandes has been Portugal’s best player, although he may rest today. Son Heung Min has carried the worst of his 2022-23 Tottenham form here and, unless he can shake himself, will exit without making a mere footprint on the tournament.
It’s got to be Xhaka. While Switzerland eventually succumbed to Brazil last time out, the Arsenal midfielder dug in and disrupted impressively. Facing Serbia with everything on the line, this could be a dogfight, which he is sure to relish.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal against Cameroon was his 13th in 15 games for club and country this season. But going back to the start of last season the Fulham powerhouse has now scored 62 goals in 72 games over the past 16 months, a quite phenomenal run.
Were the hosts really ever here? One cliche that has been ground to dust in the desert is that the hosts have to have a good tournament for it to be a success. We’re less than four days past Qatar’s exit and it genuinely seems they were never involved…which they mostly weren’t.