2014 FIFA WORLD CUP PREVIEWS – GROUP A

Brazil.

brazil

It would be safe say football is returning home. Perhaps not the ancestral home of the game but the FIFA World Cup, the success enjoyed by this South American nation has made the soccer crazy citizens demand for victory at every edition of the mundial talk less of this one being hosted which has been tagged a must win for A Seleção.

The five times world champions will be under enormous pressure to win their sixth title on home soil. Last year’s confederations cup triumph over reigning world champions – Spain will have increased expectations considering their last competitive tournament Copa America 2011 was a disaster. This time, the Selecao have a rounded team with more strength at the back.

Led by Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Marcelo, Big Phil has a solid foundation to build his attack on. The weight of expectation lies on Neymar, Hulk and Oscar. Anything beyond the title would be regarded as failure. I expect them to win this group comfortably backed by the home crowd.

 Croatia.

The Vatreni stunned the world during France ’98 when they knocked Germany out in the quarter finals and took a shock lead against host and eventual winners France in the semis. Their third place finish has been their best outing at a FIFA World Cup. Not many Croats have high hopes in Niko Kovac’s 2014 team. It is more worrying considering the abundance of talent available in today’s team, their overall performance during the qualifying rounds was disappointing. They manage to scrape through via a 2-0 aggregate win over Iceland.

croatia

The Blazers are a very well balanced team with several top-class players. Their midfield trio of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic will be the spine of the team. These players have technical abilities that can rival the very best in the world. Dejan Lovren is coming of a fantastic season with Southampton in the English Premier League while Mario Mandzukic proved his worth once again in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side.

However, despite this obvious quality, their inability to get results against the so called ‘lesser’ oppnents makes it pretty difficult to predict Croatia. On their day, you expect them to dispatch team without much stress. Their opening game agaisnt host – Brazil will decide their fate in this complex group. They have their work cut out with Mandzukic missing the opener through suspension.

Luka Modric is definitely their star man considering his fantastic season with Real Madrid, he should lead them out of this group as runners up behind Brazil.

Mexico.

El tri learned the hard way druing their qualification for Brazil 2014. They made it through via the play-offs trouncing New Zealand 9-3 on aggregate. New coach, Miguel Herrera will need to navigate a difficult and star-studded Group A that features players from the top club teams in the world.  Hosts Brazil are heavy favorites to win the entire tournament, while Croatia features plenty of top-level experience and Cameroon boasts an insanely experienced squad led by Samuel Eto’o.  It will take all Mexico has to make it out of the group. A lot will depend on veteran centre back and captain Rafael Marquez who will need to marshal his team exceptionally well. Key player Javier Hernandez struggled for consistency during the qualifying rounds. When Chicharito struggles, El Tri does same. His poor form and restricted playing time for his club has resulted in a severe lack of production for Chicharito in recent months. What is undeniable though, is the goalscoring pedigree of the Manchester United striker.

mexico

For Mexico, if they fail to secure all three points from its first match against Cameroon, it’s all but over for them.  If they can get by the African team unscathed, they would pin all their hopes on their last group match against Croatia.  El Tri has made it to the Round of 16 each of the past two World Cups, it seems unlikely they will make it out this time.

Cameroon.

Who remembers Roger Milla’s goals celebration during Italia ‘90? The Legendary striker gave the world a spectacle whenever he scored! The Indomitable Lions qualified for the 2014 World Cup by topping their qualification group and dispatching Tunisia in the playoffs. They are a physically imposing team blessed with a strong spine, excellent fitness and pace in abundance. They too will be tough opposition when playing in strong heat and humidity in Brazil. Sadly for the Cameroonians, their attack has been unable to replicate the potent goal scoring prowess of yesteryear.  The defence too, despite boasting some pretty big names, can implode.

Key player Samuel Eto’o is no longer the destructive and deadly striker that he once was at Barcelona and Inter Milan. That being said, there have been glimpses of quality in his time at Chelsea. He is still a threat and as the captain of his country, there will be expectation on him to score goals and lead by example. For Cameroon to achieve something here they will be looking to the likes of Alex Song, Samuel Eto’o and Jean Makoun. They are experienced players who must influence matches and lead by example. Hopefully, some of the lesser known talents can capitalise on that, but a group stage exit looms, especially in a group containing hosts Brazil and a very capable Croatia.

cameroon

 

 

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