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Analysis of Group Stage


History on Brazil’s side
If history is anything to go by, then the home fans should enjoy watching Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ in Sao Paulo, Fortaleza and Brasilia. A Seleção have a good record against all three opponents, although one of them has caused problems of late.

Brazil have played all three sides in past World Cups. The Opening Match in 2014 against Croatia is a repeat of Brazil’s first game in 2006, in Germany. On that occasion Kaka’s goal gave victory to the Pentacampeões, who also have fond memories of Cameroon. In the United States, in 1994, goals from Romario, Bebeto and Marcio Santos saw Brazil overcome the Africans 3-0 and book their place in the knockout stage of a tournament that would end with Dunga hoisting the trophy aloft. As for Mexico, it will be the fourth time the two nations have met each other in World Cup history. The record so far shows three Brazilian victories with 11 goals scored and none conceded. The last time they met, in 1962, A Seleção also ended up champions.

While Brazil have a positive record against Mexico in World Cups, the host country would do well to heed the lessons provided by a recent series of frustrating defeats at other tournaments. Brazil have lost no less than four finals against El Tri: the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament in London, and two CONCACAF Gold Cups, in 1996 and 2003. That’s not to mention lower age groups where Mexico were also Brazil’s nemesis in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, and as recently as October, in the quarter-finals of the U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.

The teams
Morale among the four squads is very different. Brazil are brimming with confidence after winning the FIFA Confederations Cup in the summer, while Mexico have had a torrid time recently. La Verde changed their coach twice in three months and a qualifying spot from the CONCACAF region almost escaped them. A play-off was needed to book their place in Brazil, with Miguel Herrera in charge. Croatia also required a play-off to qualify, and like Mexico appointed a new coach before the do-or-die encounter. With Niko Kovac in the dugout, Croatia drew 0-0 in Iceland and beat the Nordic team in the home leg, in Zagreb. Cameroon confirmed their place with a thumping 4-1 win in front of their own fans, following a goalless draw in Tunisia in the first match.

Players to watch
Neymar (BRA), Fred (BRA), Thiago Silva (BRA), Oribe Peralta (MEX), Raul Jimenez (MEX), Samuel Eto’o (CAM), Alexandre Song (CAM), Mario Mandzukic (CRO) and Luka Modric (CRO).

The crunch match
Mexico-Croatia: With Brazil favourites to prevail in Group A, the Mexicans and Croatians are likely to have a decisive battle in the final round of matches on 23 June, in Recife. The game pits together two teams who struggled through qualifying, changed their coaches, but who are known for playing attacking football that is pleasing on the eye.

Brazil

Last World Cup: Quarter-finals Nickname: Verde Amarela Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari Star man: Neymar Tournament best: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002 ...

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Croatia

Last World Cup: Did not qualify Nickname: The Blazers Coach: Niko Kovac Star man: Mario Mandzukic Tournament best: Third 1998 They may not be the class o...

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Mexico

Last World Cup: Round of 16 Nickname: El Tri / Aztecs Coach: Miguel “Piojo” Herrera Star man: Javier Hernandez Tournament best: Quarter-finals 1970, 1986 ...

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Cameroon

Last World Cup: Group Stage Nickname: Les Lions Indomptables Coach: Volker Finke Star man: Samuel Eto'o Tournament best: Quarter-finals 1990 They may be ...

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