Brazil 2014: Group A

With just eight days to go to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, we now take a look at Group A featuring five-time winners and host nation Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia and Mexico.  Matches will be played in the capital Brasilia, Fortalesa, Manaus, Natal, Recife as well as the opening match between the hosts and Croats in Sao Paulo.

BRAZIL

Having won the tournament a record five-times, Brazil will be heavily fancied to lift the trophy on home soil.  The Selecao finished as runners-up when they last hosted the footballing showpiece in 1950.  Having struggled for the best part of the last decade, 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari returned in 2012 and the effects were immediate with his troops winning the 2013 Confederations Cup.  Of concern is how much the Brazilians are pinning their hopes on Neymar.  While no one doubts the 21-year old’s ability, this tournament might come too soon for the youngster.

Prediction: Winners

CAMEROON

The Indomitable Lions have become ubiquitous African representatives at the FIFA World Cup, most famously reaching the quarter-finals at Italia 90.  However the West Africans have been unable to duplicate that form since and despite dominating African football at the turn of the century with back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations wins, Cameroon have been unable to make an impact on the world stage again.  These days the Cameroonians are not even considered a continental powerhouse and they will be hard-pressed to progress from this group.

Prediction: Group Stage

CROATIA

Croatia’s first FIFA World Cup appearance in 1998 was nothing short of sensational.  The Croats reached the semi-finals where they fell to an inspired France, who would go on to lift the trophy.  Davor Suker was also the leading goal scorer in that tournament as his country finished third.  A gradual decline saw Croatia miss out on qualification altogether for 2010 in South Africa.  Owing to a play-off win, the Eastern Europeans are back in 2014.

Prediction: Group Stage

MEXICO

El Tricolor were in danger of not qualifying at all before Miguel Herrera stepped in to save their qualification campaign.  Herrera turned things around sufficiently for the Mexicans to easily overcome New Zealand in a play-off.  Mexico have been regulars at the FIFA World Cup and have not missed a tournament since 1990, when they were barred after using over-aged players in the qualifying round for the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship.  That is the only World Cup the North Americans have missed since 1970.

Prediction: Second Round