World Cup 2014 - Group A Preview

Published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:09 AM by Patrick Nuss
World Cup 2014 - Group A Preview

The Group- Group A is the group of the hosts, the favorites, the legendary Brazil. Alongside them will be the European revelation, Croatia, the CONCACAF side Mexico, and African underdogs, Cameroon. This group will be particularly interesting, as each team has a realistic chance to make it to the knockout stages. The obvious favorites are Brazil, who will have a fervent fan base and an an immense homefield advantage, but also the weight of nation on their backs.  Croatia has little experience as they missed out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but they possess immense quality and class in the midfield, allowing them to be legitimate threats for the second spot. Mexico will be alongside Croatia, as they have recently hit better form, and will have lots of support among their traveling fans. Finally there is Cameroon. This team has experienced players, but maybe not as much class as the other teams in the group. However, anything can happen in soccer, and with how crazy this Cup might be, you cannot count them out.

Brazil- Brazil are definite favorites to win this group, as well as the entire tournament. They have dynamic  talent and skill everywhere on the field, with the Barcelona based Neymar being the star man. As well as that, he will have either Willian, Hulk or Bernard on the opposite wing as him, depending on the situation, with numerous options in the centermid, such as Paulinho and Fernandinho, both England based workhorses, Oscar manning the creative role as the engine that runs the entire offensive show.  David Luiz has proven to be a quality defensive mid. Even the defense, often overlooked by the fans, is stacked, with Thiago Silva, Dante, and David Luiz being possible centerback combos, and Dani Alves and Marcelo looking to bring energy from the outside. The keeper is Julio Cesar, who is both experienced and a leader. However, they lack a worldclass striker. Fred and Jo have both proven inconsistent, but with so much goalscoring ability in the side, it will probably not be a big problem. This will be a Brazil side very similar to the one we saw take the Confederations Cup by storm by throttling "La Furia Roja," once thought of as untouchable, 3-0. The only issue I see with Brazil is that there is enormous pressure on the side, perhaps more than any other team has ever felt, with threats of revolution coming from fans upset by the government's lack of funding for public necessities, such as health care, schools, and the infrastructure, if they don't win. This leaves one to wonder if we might witness an epic collapse. Realistically though, I feel like this team has the best odds out of any to win the tournament.

Croatia- Croatia has qualified for the World Cup out of the fiercely competitive European (UEFA) qualification zone, a stat that in of itself should intimidate the other teams. Their star man will likely be centermid Luka Modric, a Madridista, alongside Ivan Rakitic, up and coming maestro from Sevilla. This pairing will be key if Croatia are to get out of the group. Both have proven to be magicians with the ball, but a big question is whether or not they will defend the back four enough. That will be key as very few of the Croatian defenders have been consistently tested against the world class players they will see in the tournament. For example, Danny Lovren, of Southampton, got off to a great start in the Premier League, but experienced a shaky spell midway through as the team began to drop points. They have two very solid keepers in Subasic of Monaco and Pletikosa.  In the attack, Mandzukic, the experienced Bayern Munich striker, will likely look to sit in front of goal, and if he can finish his chances, Croatia have a good chance to move on. The main factor though, I believe, will be whether or not the defense can hold steady against the potent attacks they will face.

Mexico- The Mexican side is a tale of two teams. Will we see the team who's gone undefeated in their past 8 games, or the one who narrowly qualified for the World Cup after beating New Zealand in a playoff? The answer to this question will play a huge role in the outcome of this group. If they play like they did during CONCACAF qualifying, they are likely to finish last in the group. However, should they play like they have been, lately then things get a whole lot more interesting. Just who will be the engine that pushes the Mexico attack?  Giovani Dos Santos, the skillful Villareal winger, certainly has the potential. He has the talent to take over games, but has been known for wild swings in consistency. The defense  will be led by the aging Rafa Marquez and the talented Migel Layun.  Marco Fabian and Hector Herrera will need to take charge of the midfield after Luis Montes suffered a nasty broken leg against Ecuador. In the attack, along with Dos Santos, Oribe Peralta will need to score goals, as Manchester United's Chicharito has not found many minutes as of late. Mexico will have lots of support from the fans, and will have good chemistry, as most play their domestic ball in Mexico. As well as that, they have already proven that they are willing to throw down with Brazil, as they ousted them in the 2012 Olympics. This being said, they have a very realistic chance to advance with three consistent performances.

Cameroon- This side is likely to struggle the most in this group. Starting from the back, the goalkeeper position is shaky, to say the least. The back four will likely be led by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tottenham loanee, and Aurelian Chedjou, from the Turkish Galatasaray. The defense will be athletic and solid, especially when covered by Barcelona's Alex Song. They also have other talented mids, such as Moukandjo, Nguemo, and Matip, all of whom play domestically in Europe. The main man will be up top, by the name of Samuel Eto'o, an experienced Chelsea striker, who will be taking part in his 4th World Cup. He will need to step up and put balls in the back of the net if Cameroon are to advance into the next stage. Lorient's Vincent Aboubakar will be another choice up top. You cannot count Cameroon out of this, for even if they don't have the most well-known players, their athleticism will be difficult for some sides to match, and that, paired with the heart they play with, will make things difficult for others.

Key Match- The pivotal match in this group will be Croatia v Mexico. Brazil are likely to finish first, and assuming that the two aforementioned sides can knock off Cameroon, this match will determine who gets second. I think the match will come down to whether or not Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic play to their potential. If they do, Mexico does not have a midfielder near to their level of class, and Croatia will boss the game. This will also keep the deadly Gio Dos Santos off the ball. The winner of this game most likely will finish second.

Predictions- 1- Brazil
                   2- Croatia
                   3- Mexico
                   4- Cameroon