SBI World Cup Preview: Group A

NeymarBrazil (Getty)

By IVES GALARCEP

Home teams traditionally enjoy a boost at the World Cup, but when the team receiving that boost also happens to be a powerhouse, you have the recipe for a cakewalk through group play.

That is what Brazil faces in Group A of the 2014 World Cup. The group has three decent opponents, but none of the three are seen as being able to handle Brazil’s firepower, led by Barcelona star Neymar.

If there is a team that could pull the upset, it just might be Croatia. Led by playmakers Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, the Croatians have the skill and creativity to cause problems, and striker Mario Mandzukic is a handful.

American fans know all too well about how Mexico backed into the World Cup, but with a fresh start and confident head coach in Miguel Herrera, ‘El Tri’ could surprise. They weren’t overly impressive in their pre-World Cup friendlies, but Mexico has traditionally found a way to play better in World Cup group stages.

That leaves Cameroon, which isn’t being talked about much, but still boasts Samuel Eto’o and a stacked midfield capable of causing problems for the skilled, but not as physical, lineups in Group A.

Here is a closer look at Group A:

WORLD CUP GROUP A

SCHEDULE

6/12- Brazil vs. Croatia; 6/13- Mexico vs. Cameroon; 6/17- Brazil vs. Mexico; 6/18- Cameroon vs. Croatia; 6/23- Cameroon vs. Brazil, Croatia vs. Mexico.

TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil: Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva, Fred

Croatia: Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Niko Kranjcar

Mexico: Javier Hernandez, Rafa Marquez, Gio Dos Santos, Andres Guardado

Cameroon: Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song, Stephane Mbia, Jean Makoun

YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil: Bernard

Croatia: Mateo Kovacic

Mexico: Alan Pulido

Cameroon: Joel Matip

SBI’s PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Brazil. Too much Neymar, too strong a defense.

2. Croatia. Will be fun to watch, but their defense keeps them from topping the group.

3. Cameroon. An underrated midfield coupled with a dangerous forward in Eto’o will give them a chance at second place.

4. Mexico. In a group loaded with strong midfields, ‘El Tri’s’ midfield just doesn’t stack up.

It is tough to bet against the home team as Brazil should coast through this group with relative ease. Neymar, Fred and Oscar will lead an attack that should do well against a group of teams that likes to open things up. The battle for second place will be a tough one, but Croatia’s midfield quality gives the Europeans the edge. Mexico could be in for a rough tournament, but you can’t rule out them putting things together and being a surprise second-place team.

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How do you see Group A shaking out? Think anybody can knock Brazil off the top spot? See Mexico struggling or being the surprise of the group?

Share your thoughts below.

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17 Responses to SBI World Cup Preview: Group A

  1. Bradley's Missing Mop says:

    No Zusi to bail them out this time.

  2. BrianK says:

    Good summary,…and predictions. Brazil aside, Croatia is too sophisticated for Mexico and Cameroon. BTW – I think Niko Kranjcar is injured (hammy).

    Croatia may have the horses to knock-off Brazil in the opening match. Imagine the uproar in Brazil if that happens.

    • Increase says:

      Modric is sooo smooth its absurd. I really this Croatia will make it fine.

      That first game will likely be a loss for them though. Mandzukic is suspended.

  3. froboy says:

    Saw a bunch of Croatians at a bar in São Paulo last night, so pumped to be at the game tomorrow!

    • Gdog says:

      congrats on being there, keep the experiences coming to the SBI board so we can all live vicariously through you!

    • Increase says:

      Cut me a lock of your hair!

    • froboy says:

      I live in São Paulo, so desperately want to see the US, but didn’t work out. I have tix to the opener, Uruguay/England, Holland/Chile and the semi in São Paulo. Went downtown last night to pick up tickets and they were still far from finished their fanfest zone, but getting ready. Atmosphere in São Paulo is definitely more patriotic than I’ve ever seen. Lots of flags all over the place. I am nervous for the Ghana game as much as I’m excited to go to the opener.

      • soccerhorn says:

        Is it as scary as everyone says? $1000 hotel rooms, three hour traffic jams 24 hours a day, and gun-toting 11 year olds waiting on every corner to rob and murder you?

        • froboy says:

          I live here so I have a different perspective. São Paulo is a lot less expensive than other host cities because it is so massive. Tons of hotels, it’s expensive, but not crazy more expensive than normal. There is always a lot of traffic, no more than usual right now. The metro strike caused a lot more traffic, but now that it is over, traffic is less crazy. I was robbed at gunpoint maybe 6 months ago and I think most of my Brazilian friends have been robbed at some point or another, but certainly not on every corner, all the time.

        • Mr_A says:

          At 11 they can go on their own with a knife, and loan the guns to their younger siblings. And don’t forget the demonstrations!

  4. William the Terror says:

    I saw Bernard come onto the field in the Brazil friendly against Serbia the other night. Came on in about the 81st minute. He looks all of 12 years old and about 125 pounds soaking wet.

  5. Matt in Bk says:

    Ives, so psyched – just one more day. Great that you’re there. Looking forward to you and your team’s reporting. Have fun! Send pics! And… beat Ghana!

  6. Increase says:

    Niko Kranjcar is injured Btw which of course isn’t good for Croatia.

  7. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    Mexico 4th…wow. Have they EVER failed to make the 16 even ? ( except when FIFA didn’t let them play )…I think it was a different structure that long ago.

    • Mr_A says:

      Yeah, “traditionally found ways to play better” sounds like a euphemism for “you break’a my bracket, I break’a you leg” but maybe it’s just the way you wrote it.

  8. Yankeedom says:

    Even had Kranjcar not been injured, I still wouldn’t have put him as a player to watch. Dejan Lovren had a very solid maiden campaign in the EPL this past year and is an important part of the Croatian defense.

  9. Ted Tran says:

    Ives do you even Mexico? Your coworker over GOAL has Layun, Herrara, Moreno and Gio as players to watch.