DOHA: Brill Empolo scored against the country of his birth as Switzerland beat Cameroon 1-0 to make his World Cup debut on Thursday.
Embolo struck three minutes into the second half at Stade Al Janoub as Switzerland secured three vital points in Group G featuring Brazil and Serbia.
“It’s very special for him because of his links with Cameroon. I’m so happy he’s playing with us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Jan Sommer. “He’s always there when you need him.”
Cameroon have now lost their last eight World Cup matches since 2002.
Coach Rigobert Song said his team’s low ranking does not mean there is nothing in the tournament, but Cameroon’s eighth World Cup appearance risks being again short.
“It’s a feeling of disappointment. We wanted more but football at this level is defined by the small details. There was a short break and we conceded a goal,” said Song.
But we know that anything is still possible. We still have two games left and we know we have no more room for error.”
Roger Milla was awarded before kick-off as the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history, a reminder of the past glories of Cameroon who have won just one match since reaching the quarter-finals 32 years ago.
Song, who played in four World Cups including with the 42-year-old Milla in 1994, picked in-form coach Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to lead the attack in place of usual skipper Vincent Aboubakar.
African teams made an encouraging start in Qatar after all five failed to make it past the group stage in 2018, but Cameroon will regret not getting more out of a first half that they dominated.
Bryan Mbeumo fired Sommer after a fine volley from Martin Hongla before Carl Toko Ekambi slammed in the rebound.
Sommer then dropped low to save from Choupo Moting after he pinched the ball away from Manuel Akanji, despite a questionable foul on the Bayern Munich striker.
Sylvain Widmer produced a vital challenge stopping Toko Ekambi from collins Faye’s cross and Sommer parried a poor effort from Hongla.
Akanji looked away into the corner as Cameroon hung on at half-time but there was no such escape when they were caught again at the start of the second half.
Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler combined to pass the ball wide down the right to Xherdan Shaqiri whose cross was crossed low into the area by an unmarked Embolo.
Embolo, who was born in Cameroon, chose not to celebrate and raised his hands in apology.
Choupo-Moting neatly sliced his way past two defenders in the box but couldn’t beat Sommer from a tight angle.
Andre Onana kept his side in the game with a brilliant stop to deny Ruben Vargas an almost carbon copy of Embolo’s goal, but Cameroon never looked like getting an equaliser. Only a desperate block prevented Haris Seferovic from adding a second late on for the Swiss.