TOUCHLINEUI: 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP GROUP A PREVIEW : FOCUS ON CROATIA AND MEXICO

The Group A Preview Continues today! We’ll be looking at two sides with varying characteristics; one is a possession based side who plays down the middle while the other side ,an attacking one with lots of their play coming from the flanks.

FIFA World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are Croatia and Mexico and they complete our Group A Preview.

Come Along!

3 CROATIA

Croatia National Team

 

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: Vatreni

  • CAPTAIN: Darijo Srna
  • FIFA RANKING:20th
  • MOST CAPS: Darijo Srna (111)
  • MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Darijo Srna (111)
  • MOST GOALS: DAVOR Suker (45)

Davor Suker

 

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Eduardo(29)

  • FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 4 Times. Their first appearance was in 1998.
  • BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: France 1998, A Davor Suker inspired team finished third edging Netherlands in the third place match after losing 2-0 to France in the semi-final.

 

Croatia National Team at the 1998 World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

COACH: Niko Kovac- He won 83 caps for the Croatian National Team and captained the side at the 2006 World Cup and the Euro 2008. Drafted in to replace Igor Stimac who had stumbled Croatia into the play off. He led them to a 2-0 play off success over Lars Lagerback’s Iceland.

Niko Kovac

 

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION:4-2-3-1

  • KEY PLAYER: Luka Modric: After an underwhelming first season for Madrid, the Croatian, this last season developed into one of the key Cogs of Carlo Ancelotti Real Madrid.

Luka Modric

 

 

 

 

 

The Croatian Public would be hoping the 29 year old brings such form to the Tourney.

–          STATS

–          Real Madrid: He scored 2 goals and assisted 9 In 51 games for the Los Blancos

Modric

 

 

 

 

 

–      Croatia: Till date, He has won 73 caps and scored 8 goals.

  • OTHERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Mario Mandzukic, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic, Dejan Lovren and Darijo Srna.

Kovacic

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished Second behind Belgium in the UEFA Group A Qualifying with 17 points and then beat Iceland 2-0 on aggregate in the play-off

  • STRENGTHS:

–          In Darijo SRNA, they have one of the most underrated fullbacks in the game. His crossing abilities are equal to none and his defensive abilities are top notch. He’ll be key to Croatia’s hopes of advancing to the next Round.

Srna

 

 

 

 

 

–          In the midfield they’ve got lots of creativity; Sevilla’s Midfield Dynamo and Captain, Rakitic is coming off a fantastic season with the Spanish side and has linked with moves to top sides like Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric has developed in a key component of Real Madrid and the passing and creative side of his game is superb. Let’s not forget 20 year Old Inter Milan youngster, Mateo Kovacic, who, despite having an average season with Inter is still one of the bright prospects around and the 2014 show-piece, could see him explode to greatness.

Rakitic

 

 

 

 

 

WEAKNESSES:

–          For all of the creativity in the midfield, it still lacks balance as there is no defensive midfielder. The likes of Rakitic and Modric are better on the ball than off the ball. It could make the defence come under real pressure especially against the stronger sides. To prevent this, it will better the likes of Rakitic and Modric who would play just ahead of the Defence keep the ball well.

Croatia

 

 

 

 

 

–          Mandzukic’s red card in the Second Leg Play-off against Iceland means he would miss the tournament opener against World Cup Host, Brazil. It’s going to be a big loss as the Bayern Munchen front man has the ability to not only play as a target man but also for his  aerial threat and his ability to bring others into play and would have been a viable option when the Croats have to go long. It will be interesting to see who replaces him.

Mandzukic

 

 

 

 

 

–          The Left Back position is also a suspect with former Bayern man, Pranjic well past his best and no quality back-up.

 

 

 

 

 

–          On Monday, Former Tottenham Player Niko Kranjcar was ruled out of the World Cup after suffering an injury in his side’s 1-0 win over Derby in the play off. The 78 Cap International experience and his ability to score the spectacular would be missed.

  • Kovac’s Reaction:

“It is very special. Brazil in the first game with the whole world watching will be something. We will try to make it difficult for them but it won’t be easy. Look at 2006, though when we gave them a tough game. Dida made some good saves and Brazil needed a cracking goal from Kaka to win. I remember that I only played about half an hour in that game and had to go off with an injury. I hope I’ll be able to have a bit more influence this time.

Kovac

 

 

 

 

 

It will also be a special occasion for Dudu (Eduardo) because I know Brazil still means an awful lot to him.

I think Brazil is the obvious favourites. They are one of the best sides in the world, after all. But Second Place is wide open. Mexico may have struggled recently but are always strong at the World Cup.”

  • GROUP CHANCES: This looks a decent draw for Kovac’s men with Brazil, the only stand out team in the Group. I think it would come down to a second place battle between Croatia and Mexico. However should Croatia slip up against Cameroon, they could be in some problem should they also lose their first against Brazil.

 

 

 

 

 

As for the tournament Opener, Brazil should be favourites but should Scolari’s side show too much of nerves then we could be in for some tournament shocker. Croatia to battle it out with Mexico for Second Place!

Brazil V Croatia

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS:

–          Cameroon- Yet to Play

–          Brazil- They’ve met on two previous occasions with Brazil winning 1-0 at the 2006 World Cup and the other ending in a 1-1 draw.

–          Mexico-They’ve met on three different occasions with the Croats winning twice and losing the other one. Mexico’s solitary win over Croatia came in the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup (1-0).

  • CROATIA’S 27 MAN PROVISIONAL SQUAD

–          Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov),Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).

Dejan Lovren

 

 

 

 

–          Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka(Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld (Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa), Igor Bubnjic (Udinese).

–          Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid),Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic(Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan),Milan Badelj (Hamburg), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split), Sammir (Getafe).

Olic

 

 

 

 

–          Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munchen), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina), Duje Cop (Dinamo Zagreb).

  • WORLD CUP ODDS:150/1

 

4 MEXICO

Mexico National Team Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

NICKNAME: El Tri

  • CAPTAIN: Rafael Marquez
  • FIFA RANKING:19th
  • MOST CAPS: Claudio Suarez(178)
  • MOST CAPS(Current Squad): Rafael Marquez(120)
  • MOST GOALS: Jared Borgetti(46)

Jared Borgetti

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOST GOALS (Current Squad):Javier Hernandez(35

Javier Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIFA World Cup Appearances:14( First in 1930)

  •  BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: Quarter Finals (1970&1986)
  • COACH: Miguel Herrera

Miguel Herrera

 

 

 

 

PREFERRED FORMATION: 5-3-2/3-5-2

  • KEY PLAYER: Rafael Marquez: The 35 year old is undoubtedly the leader of this Mexican Team. After a couple of years of being absent from the National Team, Herrera has made the former Barcelona Defender his Leader, Captain and the first Name on the team sheet.

Marquez

 

 

 

 

He might no longer boast of pace and could be prone to occasional moments of madness, but his passing abilities and calm on the ball is nevertheless top notch.

Marquez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is set to become the first Player in the history of the game to captain his country at four different World Cups.

–          STATS

–          LEON: He made 25 appearances and scored a goal

–          Mexico: For His Country, He’s scored 15 goals in 120 caps till date.

  • OTHERS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Javier Hernandez,Oribe Peralta,Giovani Dos Santos and Raul Jimenez

Oribe Peralta

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO FINALS: Finished fourth in the CONCACAF Qualifiers with 11 points and had to play Oceania Side, New Zealand in the play off. El Tri won the play off 9-3 on aggregate to book their ticket to Brazil.

 

 

 

 

 

STRENGTHS

–          Miguel’s 5-3-2/3-5-2 Formation has his full-backs play join in the attacks and play more or less as wing backs. The advantage of this is that it makes their play expansive and with full backs pushing up, the opposition defence would be overloaded or stretched.

–          The midfield looks very strong in depth and talent especially with the like of Leon’s Carlos Pena and Luis Montes pulling the strings.

Luis Montes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–          Up front, they also look strong;Oribe Peralta is a fast-paced, agile and deadly finisher(16 goals in 30 caps),Giovani Dos Santos who tends to play better for Country would be a threat for opposition fullbacks and if Manchester United Forward, Javier Hernandez gets his goal-scoring mojo back, then we could be in for a goal feast.

 

 

 

 

 

WEAKNESSES

–          Herrera’s 3-5-2 Formation which allows for overlapping wing backs leaves lots of space behind which could stretch the defence when caught on break and when you are a certain 35 year old Rafael Marquez, and an ageing Francisco Rodriguez then a few goals are bound to leak in.

Carlos Salcido

 

 

 

 

 

Diego Reyes who has been tipped as one of next big things has unfortunately not seen much of game time with Porto and could come for the Tournament rusty.

Diego Reyes and Neymar

 

 

 

 

–          There are question marks over the role Dos Santos plays in this team due to the fact that the 3-5-2 Formation does not allow for a Number 10.Till date, it’s yet to be resolved and leaving someone of Giovani’s International Experience on the bench won’t do the El Tri’s chances any good.

Dos Santos

 

 

 

 

 

–          Carlos Vela’s continued absence from the Squad could come back to haunt them.  They might have Peralta and Javier but Vela is someone who can take on defenders, has a few tricks on his feet and can equally score goals. He had an impressive season with Real Sociedad; scoring 21 goals and assisting 14 in 52 games.

Carlos Vela

 

 

 

 

 

HERRERA’S REACTION:

Mexico usually causes problems for Brazil. We play a style of football that make the Brazilians work but to do that this time, we need to be very strong physically.

Herrera

 

 

 

 

 

The core of the team is provided by the side that qualified and what we need to do now is stay competitive.

When all has been said and done, we are lucky. It’s not a bad group but it’s not easy either. I’m sure the other sides will see us as tough opponents too.

Judging by the style of football they play, the other three teams will let us play our game”

  • GROUP CHANCES: Looking at other Groups it is fair to say this is not the most difficult for Mexico, Brazil being the only team way ahead of the rest. However Mexico struggled terribly in 2013 and qualified through the back door so it’s difficult to predict the Mexico side that will turn up at the Mundial.

 

 

 

 

 

If they can pick up the three points against Cameroon, then who knows?Games against Brazil have been close with El Tri winning three of the last seven(discounting the 2012 Olympics Final).Brazil should however, this time around, be too much for Herrera’s men.

It could come down to the last game against Croatia where it could either be a winner take all or a best goal advantaged scenario.

 

Mexico V Cameroon

 

 

 

 

The First Game is Key! Failure to beat Group underdogs could spell doom!

  • HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS

–          Brazil: They’ve met 39 times with Mexico winning ten, drawing six and losing twenty-three.

2012 Olympics Final

 

 

 

 

 

–          Croatia: They’ve met three times with the El Tri winning once and suffering defeats on the other two occasions.

–          Cameroon: Met just once and were victorious.

  • MEXICO’S 23 MAN SQUAD

–          Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona(Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio) and Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

–          Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigers), Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno (Espanyol),Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America),Diego Reyes (Porto) and Rafael Marquez (Leon)

–          Midfielders: Miguel Angel Ponce (Toluca), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Luis Montes (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul) and Carlos Pena (Leon).

–          Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), Raul Jimenez (America) and Alan Pulido (Tigres).

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORLD CUP ODDS:150/1

 

 

 

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