By IVES GALARCEP
Home teams traditionally enjoy a boost at the World Cup, but when the team receiving that boost also happens to be a powerhouse, you have the recipe for a cakewalk through group play.
That is what Brazil faces in Group A of the 2014 World Cup. The group has three decent opponents, but none of the three are seen as being able to handle Brazil’s firepower, led by Barcelona star Neymar.
If there is a team that could pull the upset, it just might be Croatia. Led by playmakers Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, the Croatians have the skill and creativity to cause problems, and striker Mario Mandzukic is a handful.
American fans know all too well about how Mexico backed into the World Cup, but with a fresh start and confident head coach in Miguel Herrera, ‘El Tri’ could surprise. They weren’t overly impressive in their pre-World Cup friendlies, but Mexico has traditionally found a way to play better in World Cup group stages.
That leaves Cameroon, which isn’t being talked about much, but still boasts Samuel Eto’o and a stacked midfield capable of causing problems for the skilled, but not as physical, lineups in Group A.
Here is a closer look at Group A:
WORLD CUP GROUP A
6/12- Brazil vs. Croatia; 6/13- Mexico vs. Cameroon; 6/17- Brazil vs. Mexico; 6/18- Cameroon vs. Croatia; 6/23- Cameroon vs. Brazil, Croatia vs. Mexico.
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brazil: Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva, Fred
Croatia: Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Niko Kranjcar
Mexico: Javier Hernandez, Rafa Marquez, Gio Dos Santos, Andres Guardado
Cameroon: Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song, Stephane Mbia, Jean Makoun
YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH
Croatia: Mateo Kovacic
Mexico: Alan Pulido
Cameroon: Joel Matip
SBI’s PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Brazil. Too much Neymar, too strong a defense.
2. Croatia. Will be fun to watch, but their defense keeps them from topping the group.
3. Cameroon. An underrated midfield coupled with a dangerous forward in Eto’o will give them a chance at second place.
4. Mexico. In a group loaded with strong midfields, ‘El Tri’s’ midfield just doesn’t stack up.
It is tough to bet against the home team as Brazil should coast through this group with relative ease. Neymar, Fred and Oscar will lead an attack that should do well against a group of teams that likes to open things up. The battle for second place will be a tough one, but Croatia’s midfield quality gives the Europeans the edge. Mexico could be in for a rough tournament, but you can’t rule out them putting things together and being a surprise second-place team.
How do you see Group A shaking out? Think anybody can knock Brazil off the top spot? See Mexico struggling or being the surprise of the group?
Share your thoughts below.