MMD June 12, 2014 0

Group A contains the host nation as always, the team with the coolest shirts, a weaker than usual El Tri, and some very angry Africans. Here’s the CliffsNotes:


> Brazil has won 5 World Cups, the most of any nation. They have played in 7 Finals, and are the only team to appear in all 20 tournaments.

> This is the second World Cup in which they are the host nation. Last time they hosted in 1950 they lost in the final to Uruguay in front of 200,000 fans in one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports – known as Maracanazo.

> They have won their last 9 games and 15 of their last 16.

> Their nickname is Canarinho (Little Canaries) due to their famous yellow shirts.

> In their last two tuneup games (both in Brazil) Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari employed a 4-2-3-1 formation. He’ll play that or a kind of 4-2-1-2-1 variation. In their last away match in South Africa they lined up in a 4-2-1-3, so they might switch to that if they aren’t generating enough offense, or have no fear of their opponent being able to exploit the extra open space in the middle.

Veteran Julio Cesar will start in goal. He was highly criticized for a misplay in the last World Cup during a loss to the Netherlands, and will be looking to redeem himself here.

Full backs Marcelo and Dani Alves will be key players. Brazil will ask these two to kickstart the offense and they will be free to attack all the way into the box, as well as being responsible for defending the up and down sidelines. Both are elite world-class players that will hope to be huge factors for Brazil. Maicon and Maxwell will back them up.

Thiago Silva – one of the starting center backs and team captain – is one of the best defensive players in the world, and his partner David Luiz is an excellent defender as well. Dante provides experience off the bench; Henrique is a national team rookie.

Most likely Luiz Gustavo will start and play a defensive central midfield role. His partner will probably be Paulinho, another good defender who is also a great passer and playmaker that creates offense. Ramires is every bit as good as Gustavo and Paulinho, but I see him being used off the bench because of his versatility and ability to play multiple positions. However, if Scolari feels they need their most offensive lineup – he starts. Fernandinho seems to be the choice to play at the double pivot if they switch to the 4-2-1-3 and Hernanes is a good possession player and passer who is valuable off the bench as well.

The skill and talent of Brazil up front is second to none. Neymar is one of the best players in the world and will create some jaw-dropping moments with his dribble. Hulk (his nickname is obviously derived from the fact he is the biggest of the Brazilians, “tipping” the scales at 187lbs.) is another big-time scorer, who takes the ball directly to goal at every opportunity. These two will play the left and right central attacking midfielder roles, or the left and right forwards if they switch to the 4-2-1-3. Willian is a world-class player and a great passer, and he’s similar to Ramires in that he is certainly good enough to start, but will probably be used off the bench because you can stick him in at multiple positions.

Oscar is probably their most creative playmaker. He will play the central attacking midfielder role behind Fred, or be the “1” in the 4-2-1-3. Fred is the striker and is an incredible goal scorer. Backup Jo can fill-up the net as well.

Brazil is by far the most talented team in the group, and with home-field advantage should win it easily.


> The best finish the Croatians have had at the World Cup was third in 1998, and this will be their fourth appearance.

> They are undefeated in their last 5 games winning 3 and drawing 2. Croatia defeated Iceland in a playoff to qualify.

> Their nickname is Vatreni (the Blazers.)

> They have by far the coolest shirts, with a red and white checkered design that makes them look like running tablecloths.

> In their two warmup games they played a 4-4-2, or to be specific a 4-4-1-1.

The 35-year-old veteran Stipe Pletikosa will man the goal.

The best player on the Croatian defense is also their most capped player ever – captain and right back Darijo Srna. He is dangerous on free kicks and will be a contributor on offense delivering superb crosses. Youngster Dejan Lovren is coming off an excellent season in the Premier League and should see time at center back, and Domagoj Vida’s ability to play either center back or full back should find him a good amount of playing time as well.

The best player on the team is Luka Modric, who will start at one of the central midfield spots. His vision and creativity are the heart of the Croatian offense and he has the ability to finish on an elite level as well. Ivan Rakitic might start or come off the bench, and is a good possession player and passer. Ivan Perisic – who also may start or enter as a sub – is an excellent shooter who can play anywhere up front, but will probably be deployed on the wing. Rising young star Mateo Kovacic is also capable of playing multiple positions and can facilitate the offense in different roles.

Croatia’s top striker is Mario Mandzukic, but he will be suspended for the first game. Usually they will play the Brazilian-born Sammir in behind him, but it’s anyone’s guess as to the tandem that will be chosen by Coach Niko Kovac in Mandzukic’s absence. Nikica Jelavic scored as the 10 in one of the warmup games – in that game the youngster Kovacic started as the other forward. Mandzukic and Sammir look to be the combination from the second game on.

While not quite on the level of Brazil, Croatia looks to be better than the rest of the group and should finish second and qualify for the second round.


> In 1970 and 1986 Mexico made it to the quarterfinals, their best finish to date. They will be making an impressive 14th appearance in the World Cup.

> Their nickname is El Tri, a reference to their tricolored flag.

> They are 2-2-2 in their last six games.

> The Mexicans struggled in qualifiers finishing a disappointing fourth, which forced them to win a playoff against New Zealand to advance to the World Cup.

> In their last three tuneup games Coach Miguel Herrera has gone with a 5-3-2 formation, and doesn’t seem to have any set lineup.

It remains to be seen if new coach Miguel Herrera will chose Guillermo Ochoa or Jose Corona in goal. Since taking over after Mexico’s poor showing in qualifiers, he has created a competition at every position on the field – so predicting this team is impossible.

Rafa Marquez is the best player Mexico has on the back line. He is capable of playing anywhere on the field and will most likely be named captain as he was in 2010. Mexico will need him to be at the top of his game. Paul Aguilar is super-fast and will attack from a full back position, and Francisco Rodriguez’s 6’4″ frame makes him a likely candidate to start at center back.

Hector Herrera is a classic box-to-box midfielder who will probably start. Andres Guardado is one of Mexico’s most skilled players – he can be deployed at fullback, on the wing, or in central midfield. He was a sure bet starter before Mexico’s recent struggles and will now have to earn his playing-time like everyone else. Jose Juan Vazquez seems to be preferred by the new coach in a defensive central midfield role, and 24-year-old Marco Fabian should be used to provide a spark off the bench. Another 24-year-old midfielder Carlos Pena has been seeing a lot of action in recent friendlies as well.

Up front you would always expect to see Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez but as mentioned, everyone is fighting for playing time on this squad – nonetheless Chicha is definitely their most skilled and talented player, and their best goal scorer. Giovani dos Santos is another extremely talented player that used to be a regular. He should see lots of playing time as he can be used at forward or as an attacking midfielder. Oribe Peralta has been playing well of late and youngster Raul Jiminez is also an option up front.

This is the worst team Mexico has taken to the World Cup in some time, and while a second place finish is certainly not out of the question, I see them finishing third.


> This will be their 7th trip to the world cup – more than any other African nation. Their best finish was a birth in the quarterfinals in 1990.

> They have a French nickname: Les Lions Indomptables (The Indomitable Lions.)

> Cameroon is 3-2-2 in their last seven matches and defeated Tunisia in their final qualification round.

> In their last two warmup games they used a 4-3-3, but have played a 4-4-2 as well as a 4-5-1 recently. German Coach Volker Finke looks like he’ll be choosing his formation and starting 11 based on the opponent.

> The national team refused to leave their hotel the day they were to fly to Brazil and also refused an audience with their prime minister in which they were to receive a flag to take to the tournament. They were reportedly unhappy that their World Cup bonus pay had not yet been guaranteed. This problem seems to have been resolved as Cameroon did eventually arrive in Brazil.

Charles Itandje is known as a premier shot-stopper and will start in goal. He formerly played for France’s under-21 national team.

Nicolas N’Koulou will probably start at center back alongside 6’4″ Joel Matip. Henri Bedimo and Allan Nyom played the most in recent friendlies at the full back spots.

In the midfield will be Alex Song, who is one of the best defensive center halves in the world. Eyong Enoh is another excellent defensive midfielder and the man that got the most midfield minutes in the warmup games. Obviously Coach Volker Finke will be adopting a defensive philosophy. Edgar Salli will play an attacking midfield role and Benjamin Moukandjo can play forward or wing.

Captain Samuel Eto’o is arguably the greatest soccer player in the history of Cameroon. He has the most goals (56) and third-most caps (117) for the national team. He is the best weapon they have and will have to generate lots of offense for his team to advance. Vincent Aboubakar is another talented goal scorer who may start up front as well. German-born Eric Chuopo-Moting has scored recently and looks to get some playing time, as does veteran Pierre Webo.

Not enough support for Eto’o and not enough defense either, maybe third – probably last.

Article By: Anthony Schiano

Leave A Response »