Monday, 9 June 2014

FourFourTwo World Cup: Group A preview

Group A: Brazil, Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon

The World Cup wait is almost over with Group A containing the host nation Brazil, Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia. Expectation, talk, warm-up matches, and squad announcements will all be forgotten come Friday morning as teams take to the pitch and kick-off the biggest sporting event on the globe. It is a time when the Australian football loving public turn their sleep patterns upside down for an entire month. Many will follow the fortunes of the Socceroos, but in this uniquely multi-cultural country, seeing a sea of foreign kits and flags in the many cafes, helps warm the heart on those cold winter mornings.


Brazil will be floating on a wave of intense home support and on paper will progress through the group stage without too much trouble. Their performance against Serbia on the weekend was far from convincing and the crowd voiced their displeasure at the half-time break. The Selecao have always had an over abundance of attacking talent and this tournament is no exception.  Coach ‘Big Phil’ Luiz Felipe Scholari has worked hard to transform his side into a football superpower once again, but it could be a case of all or nothing if he doesn’t deliver the nation’s sixth FIFA World Cup trophy. It is a team possessing a great balance of age and experience

Key players 

No question the player everyone will be watching will be Neymar Jnr. With his blistering speed and jaw-dropping footwork, Neymar’s stock price and gravity defying hairstyle will rise exponentially by the conclusion of the cup. The partnership with Oscar promises to be more thirst quenching than a cheap local Mojito and could provide some great moments for the massive television audience. His tally of goals is growing quickly with each appearance, but it is his unselfishness and willingness to assist teammates onto the score sheet that impresses many pundits.

Another player crucial to the overall success of Brazil could lie in their ageing keeper Julio Cesar. Much is said of the star studded forward line but deep into a tournament stalemate games are often decided by the harsh but drama filled penalty shoot-out and Cesar at the back could prove a big asset.


Probably considered lucky to even be in Brazil this time around, Mexico always brings a certain unpredictability to the World Cup. It would seem unjust if they weren’t competing in their sixth consecutive tournament. Mexico has always had strength in their youth but success will depend on what team turns up on the day. They play one of the most entertaining styles in world football and their perfect record of group progression in the past six world cups ensures they will be worthy opponents. If taken lightly they will punish and, with a strong “hands- on” coaching approach of Miguel Herrara, have the potential to upset and surprise. 

Playing their first game against Cameroon will be an opportunity to build confidence after warm up games against Portugal and Bosnia-Herzegovina. They competed solidly against Portugal on the weekend despite losing 1-0 and a 3-1 friendly win over Ecuador will be at the front of their minds. Goals have been scarce of late and their attack will need to convert chances and fast if they intend going beyond the group into the knockout stage.

Key players

No surprise that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will have plenty of eyes cast his way to see if he can deliver on reputation as Mexico’s biggest footballing product. The downside is his distinct lack of pitch time this season for Manchester United. Not registering a goal for his country since last summer, if he gets on the board early against Cameroon, look for a big tournament from the ‘Little Pea’.


As we are all well aware, Croatia took on the new Ange Era Socceroos in a final warm up match for both teams. In what was a solid hit out, the intensity was solid without either side risking injury or playing all their cards in their deck. For Croatia the challenge doesn’t get any bigger than taking on Brazil in the opening game on Friday morning AEST. Sadly Croatia is a shadow of their former self this time around and the squad lacks the depth of previous campaigns. A weakened defensive line could ultimately cost them a place in the round of 16 and their final game against Mexico may mark their farewell.

Key players

Bayern Munich’s star striker Mario Mandzukic will provide Croatia with their biggest weapon upfront in the air but he will have to sit out the opener against Brazil due his send off against Iceland in qualifying. His combination with the classy Luka Modric will keep defences second-guessing. This could be a watershed tournament for Croatia who, like Mexico, are an unknown quantity given their track record of inconsistency in qualifying.


Finally Cameroon rounds out Group A. The African nation’s campaign certainly wasn’t boosted with news filtering through of the squad refusing to board a plane to South America due to an ongoing dispute over match bonuses. Thankfully a late deal was brokered and the team can rest easier knowing each player will receive a participation bonus. Not an ideal preparation, but given the squad is largely built around Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o, not too much is expected from this team which could work in motivating the side.

Key players

Samuel Eto’o is Cameroon’s stand-out weapon but given his touchy relationship with teammates, his influence could be one of brilliance or failure to fire. They are a team more often than not that beats themselves rather then relying on their opponents to do so. Toss a coin on what team turns up in Brazil.

Key Matches

Brazil v Croatia  June 13 6:00am AEST (Arena de Sao Paulo)

This opening game is critical for Brazil to blow away any perceived cobwebs, get their tournament off to winning start and send a message to other teams.

Brazil v Mexico  June 18 6:00am AEST (Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza)

Has the potential to be an entertaining game with plenty of attacking free-flowing football and goals, goals, goals.

Croatia v Mexico  June 24 6:00am AEST (Arena Pernambuco, Recife)

A game that could decide the future in the World Cup for both teams and might well be a must win for either side to progress deeper.

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