5 time World Champion and Host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil were on the 6th of December paired up against Eastern European side, Croatia who they famously beat in the 2006 World Cup thanks to a wonder goal from Kaka.
Others who complete the group are the El Tri of Mexico and Four-time African Champions, Cameroon, who would be looking to improve on a dismal 2010 World Cup Performance.
Most pundits and critics believe this should be an easy ride for Brazil with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon slugging it out for second place.
We’ll be looking at the chances of the four teams in the Group, first with Brazil and Cameroon and then tomorrow, Croatia and Mexico. We’ take a look at their strengths, weaknesses, the head to head and who we tip to progress. Come with us!
- NICKNAME:A Selecao
- CAPTAIN:Thiago Silva
- FIFA RANKING: 4th
- MOST CAPS: Cafu -142 caps
- MOST CAPS(Current Squad)-Julio Cesar- 78 Caps
- MOST GOALS: Pele-77 goals
- MOST GOALS(Current Squad)-Neymar 30 goals
- FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES-20, the only side to have appeared in all the World Cup Finals. Their first appearance was in 1930.
- BEST SHOWING At THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Winners (1958, 1962,1970,1994 and 2002)
COACH: Luis Felipe Scolari (Winner,2002)
- PREFERRED FORMATION :4-2-3-1
- KEY PLAYER: Neymar: The 22 year old might not have had the best of season with Barcelona (who had?)But he seems to always to always bring out his best in the Brazil Shirt. The chances of Brazil doing well at the Mundial, to a large extent depend on the performances he churns out. If he can manage to replicate his Confederations Cup performance, then Brazil could very well be on their way way to a sixth World Crown.History suggests he’ll do so.
– Barcelona: He scored 15 goals and assisted a further 15 in 41 games in the 2013/2014 season.
– Brazil: He’s won 47 caps till date and has scored 30 goals.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Thiago Silva, Oscar, Fred,
David Luiz and Marcelo
Route to Finals: Automatic as hosts
– Defence: Unlike other South American Sides at the tourney, the Canarinho boast one of best backline if not the best that would participate at the Tournament. At right back, they have Dani Alves who might not have been his best in the last few seasons but who on his day is still one of the very best around. They also have an experienced back up in Maicon who’s coming off a fantastic season with AS Roma. In the Centre, they have the World’s best defender in Thiago Silva who is known for his impeccable positioning, well-timed tackles and of course his leadership. The Paris Saint Germain Defender is the Captain of the team.
His sidekick is David Luiz, an equally talented ball-playing defender who plays with more maturity in the Green and Yellow Jersey than at his club side-soon to be former, Chelsea. On the sideline are UEFA Champions League Winner and a Key Cog of Bayern Munchen, Dante who would feel a little unlucky to be team-mates with the best defenders around. Also making up a very strong Central Defensive lineup is 27 year old, Henrique of Napoli. The Left-Back position has Marcelo who just a few days ago helped Real Madrid to the La Decima. He’s very good going forward and his partnership with Neymar is telepathic. Maxwell of PSG would be waiting on Marcelo’s wings to seize on any opportunity given to him. He might not be as explosive as Marcelo going forward but there’s no denying the fact that unlike the Madrid Player, the 33 year old offers more defensively. Very Few Teams can boast of this Defensive Line-Up.
The chances of Brazil winning a 6th World Cup Crown not only lies on what their talented and gifted attackers do but also what these incredible and no-nonsense defenders do.
– The Brazilian side is a very physical one and this could be an added advantage especially against sides who love to keep the ball or as its better known, play the tiki-taka. Up Front Fred is a beast who is very dangerous in the air. In the middle of the park, the likes of Paulinho, Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo are very good at harrying the ball off opponents.
The return of Ramires to the Brazil set-up is also valuable in the sense that Brazil now has someone who can drive through the middle and could be very useful on the break or against tiring opponents. Willian, Hulk and to a lesser extent Oscar are also known for their incredible work-rate.
– The Coach: Luis Felipe Scolari is one of the three Coaches at the Mundial to have ever lifted the Trophy either as a Player or as a Coach having won it in 2002. With the pressure that comes with being hosts especially if it’s the Brazil National Team, having someone who has been there before would not necessarily take away all the pressure but who have a calming effect on the Players who know that the Big Boss is there to take the pressure off.
The link-up between Marcelo of Real Madrid and Neymar of Barcelona as earlier stated is telepathic and should run fear into opposition defenders whose minds would be at sea as to whether to anticipate a cut-back or a drive down the middle.
– Apart from Fred up front, the attack is bleak and could be a source of worry in the latter stages of the Competition should the Number 9 get injured or run out of steam.
The last time and only other time Brazil hosted the World was in 1950 and they lost to heavy underdogs, Uruguay in the Final after been heavily tipped to demolish their South American Rivals. Though that final match-up is highly unlikely this time around, it would be interesting to see if the pressure from the Brazil Public would spur them to greatness or would harm them. Once again, just like in 1950, they’ve been talked up, especially since they whitewashed La Furia 3-0 in the Confederation Cup Final, as favourites for the World Cup. It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure. Would it get to them? Or would it spur them to World Cup Greatness? The next few weeks would decide.
This Brazil side lacks natural width as the likes of Neymar, Hulk and Willian love to cut in. The width comes from their fullbacks. This lack of width could make it difficult to break narrow and well-organized teams and when they eventually use their full-backs, could leave open to been caught on the break. Lucas Moura would have been that man but unfortunately, he’s not on the plane to Brazil.
SCOLARI’S REACTION: “The draw was not up to me and that is why I wasn’t worried beforehand. But when you see some of the other groups, I think we can say we haven’t done badly. England, Italy and Uruguay is the toughest Group.
We open against a European Team which is my preference. Everyone knows Croatia; they pass the ball and they’ve got good touch. They’ve been in a few World Cups now and they’ve got people who play for Europe’s top teams.
Cameroon have given Brazil and a few other teams a hard time before and then we have Mexico, who are traditional rivals of ours and still very dangerous. We’ve had some classic matches with them over the last 20 years, so that’s another warning for us.
Before I can start thinking about the Round of 16, I’ve got to think about México, Cameroon and Croatia. If you start thinking about the others, then you’ve taken your eye off the ball and that could be fatal in a World Cup”.
- GROUP CHANCES: Brazil should have no problem getting out of this Group as Winners. Croatia despite the appointment of Kovac have struggled a bit. For all their physical presence, Cameroon doesn’t the same technical ability as the Five Time World Champions.
Brazil have struggled a bit against Mexico most notably in the 2012 Olympics Final. The likes of Oscar and Neymar played in that Final and Brazil’s 2-0 over the El Tri at the Confederations Cup was really hard fought. On a positive note, Mexico has also been disappointing and qualified for the mundial through the back door.
Scolari might have said they should not get too far ahead of themselves but I’m sure they’ll want to top their Group to avoid a potential Round of Sixteen Tie against World Champions, Spain. Brazil to win Group A!
- HEAD-TO-HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:
10th June, 1976
24th June, 1994(FIFA World Cup)
13th November, 1996
31st May, 2001(FIFA Confederations Cup)
19th June, 2003 (FIFA Confederations Cup)
17th August, 2005
13th June, 2006(FIFA World Cup)
They’ve met 39 times. Brazil have been victorious on 23 occasions, drawn 6 times and lost 10 times to Mexico.
BRAZIL’S 23 MAN SQUAD
– Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar(Toronto FC,on loan from QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo),Victor (Atletico Mineiro)
– Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid),Daniel Alves(Barcelona),Maicon(AS Roma),Maxwell, Thiago Silva(both Paris Saint Germain), David Luiz(Chelsea-Paris Saint Germain),Dante(Bayern Munchen)and Henrique(Napoli)
– Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham), Ramires, Willian and Oscar (Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).
– Forwards: Bernard(Shakhtar
Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fliuminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St.Petersburg)
WORLD CUP ODDS:3/1
NICKNAME: The Indomitable Lions
- FIFA RANKING:50th
- CAPTAIN: Samuel Eto’o Fils
- MOST CAPS: Rigobert Song (137)
- Most Caps (Current Squad):Samuel Eto’o (115)
- Most Goals Samuel Eto’o (55)
- Most Goals (Current Squad):Samuel Eto’o (55)
- FIFA World Cup Appearances :7 (First in1982)
- BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Quarter-Final (1990)
COACH: Volker Finke
PREFERRED FORMATION:4-2-3-1 or variants of it
KEY PLAYER: Samuel Eto’o Fils: At the age of 33, he might no longer have that explosive pace but there’s no doubt that whatever Cameroon achieves would be solely down to the Eto’o we see in Brazil.
– CHELSEA: He scored 14 goals and assisted seven in forty-one appearances.
– CAMEROON: Till date, He has 114 caps with 55 goals to his name.
- Other Players to Watch Out For: Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Assou- Ekotto, Stephane Mbia, Alex Song and Vincent Aboubakar.
ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished top of Group I with 13 points, 4 ahead of Libya and then dismissed the threat of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, 4-1 in the play-off to book their ticket.
– Like most African Sides, the Indomitable Lions boast of very physically strong side with immense fitness and a strong work-rate.
They also look strong in the midfield with the likes of Seville’s Mbia, Barcelona’s Alex Song, Jean Makoun and Joel Matip of Schalke 04.
They’ve also got decent Defenders in the shape of Galatasaray Chedjou who Chelsea Fans won’t forget in a hurry. There’s also Assou-Ekotto who on his day is decent option.
– They lack options up front. Samuel Eto’o who is no doubt one of football greats has lost a yard of pace and can’t be relied solely upon to deliver the goods. Vincent Aboubakar looks decent but he’s still the young and inexperienced at this level and has scored only two goals in twenty-two caps. One begins to wonder who is going to chip in the goals especially if the Former Barcelona player goes missing or is marked out.
Alex Song who plays the Creative Role for Cameroon has been a non-factor for Catalan Giants, Barcelona. Would his lack of playing time haunt the Central African Side or would it make him fresh?
– The Squad is also an ageing one with nothing less than six players in their thirties or above it and a couple just approaching the third decade of their lives. While experience comes with age(though not in every situation),it would be interesting to see how they hold their own against fast paced teams like Mexico and Brazil and should they progress, a team in Group B.
This one is more of a Continental Problem. Issues relating to bonuses, In-House rifts could derail their already slim chances of progressing.
- FINKE’S REACTION: “The matches against Croatia and Mexico are the biggest ones for us. Brazil is favourites and they’re going to win the Group.
Obviously, we’re going to give it our best against them and who knows, we might get appoint, but they are a great team and they’ll have their fans behind them.
I don’t think there’s much to choose between Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon; those games will be crucial.
At the end of the day, being in the same Group as Brazil is a great experience.
We’ll be getting a lot of attention!”
- GROUP CHANCES
In 2010, in Group E, Cameroon picked up 3 losses in a Group that had the likes of The Netherlands, Denmark and Japan. Looking at that, a point picked up in this Group should be an achievement.
This time around, though still the weakest on paper, the likes of Croatia and Mexico have also struggled . If the Croats and Mexico carry such form into Brazil, then Cameroon will fancy of getting at least four points.
Doing that would however be some feat!
Finke has said they’ll get a lot attention. Hopefully it won’t be for the wrong reasons.
- HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS
– COUNTRY PLAYED WON DREW LOST
– BRAZIL 5 1 1 3
– MEXICO 1 0 0 1
– CROATIA- Yet to Play
- CAMEROON 28-MAN PROVISIONAL SQUAD
– Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Guy Roland Ndy Assembe (Guingamp),Sammy Ndjock (Fethiyespor),Feudjou Loic (Coton Sport)
– Defenders: Allan Nyom(Granada),Nounkeu Dany (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue(Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille),Jean-Armel Kanya-Biyick (Rennes), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR),Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos)
–Midfielders: Enoh Eyong (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes),Joel Matip (Schalke 04), Stephane Mbia (Sevilla, on ,loan from QPR), Landry Nguemo (Boredaux), Alexandre Song( Barcelona), Cedric Loe (Osasuna), Edgar Salli(RC Lens)
– Forwards: Samuel Eto’o(Chelsea), Eric-Maxime Chupo-Moting(Mainz 05),Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy),Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient),Pierre Achille Webo(Fenerbache),Mohmadou Idrissou(Kaiserslautern),Fabrice Olinga(Zulte Waregem)
WORLD CUP ODDS:300/1
Watch out for the Preview on Croatia and Mexico tomorrow!