World Cup Group A Preview – by Ben Harrison

June 5, 2014 11:09 am

Despite this group being one of the most looked upon, due to it containing the host nation, I am going to try and keep it as balanced and easy to follow as possible. So, obviously there is a huge expectation on Brazil, who have not had much success in recent tournaments. But with many tipping this to be their year, I am not sure it is that straight forward, and many others are saying they will either ‘flop/win, with there being no middle ground, and I would have to agree with them.

Just a quick reminder of the 3 opening fixtures for Group A. And yes, 3 is correct. If you did not already know, both Brazil and Mexico play twice in GR1.

Brazil v Croatia

Mexico v Cameroon

Brazil v Mexico

But before loading up on the big Brazilians, it is worth noting that Mexico and Brazil don’t play at all in GR2.

Brazil

Under coach Menezes they seemed doomed, and under Scolari things took a while to get going. Even England beat them!

Strengths – Neymar isn’t Brazil’s only star, with several fantastic midfielders and Thiago Silva + Luiz forming a fantastic centre back pairing.

Weaknesses – Julio Cesar is no longer the figure he once was between the sticks and Fred might not be as sharp after recovering from injury. Brazil have a few risks going into their first game.

Things to learn from qualifying – Because Brazil are hosts, they didn’t need to qualifty, but we do know they won all 5 games on home soil in the Confederations Cup, with Fred scoring 5 goals and Neymar 4.

Things to learn since South Africa – Obviously there has been the change in manager since 2010 and the new manager does still need to find a balance. This mainly comes as however they may be scoring more goals this is also leading to a more leaky defence. The top goal scorers since 2010 are:

Neymar-30 Fred-12 Oscar-9

Key players – Obviously, Neymar is a key component for Brazil and will be a guaranteed starter. However, he is not the only player to watch out for as since the World Cup Brazil have only lost 7 games in 53 and only 1 has been lost by more than one goal, so players such as Alves (6.4) could be a great buy.

Mexico

Mexico, after being a flop in recent tournaments will be keen to at least get out of the group, but it may not be easy with Croatia thinking the same thing. They even lost to Costa Rica late last year and only just scraped through the qualifying. However, after securing their 4th coach in half a year things are looking up.

Strengths – Mexico play, not only a fast paced, but also a disciplined style. However, there main advantage is that after playing so bad this past few years they go into the World Cup with little expectation and with no pressure.

Weaknesses – Their defence is very weak and slow, so I would steer away from them. Also, the fact the squad has been rebuilt, means it lacks cohesion.

Things to learn from qualifying – Find a better time to rebuild your squad. No really, it is as simple as that, and that is what has happened with them, now playing 5-3-2 (similar to Hull). However, new faces have seen more goals and they do have a good strike pair in Hernandez (7.7) and dos Santos (7.9). Don’t be fooled by prices however, since 2010, Hernandez has banked 48, which is 10 more than dos Santos.

Things to learn since South Africa– Mexico are still yet to find a balance in there squad after the re-shuffle that saw players such as the late bloomer Peralta joining the squad. Mexico also need to find there scoring boots, even in qualifying they were still not scoring enough goals (-2 goal difference).

Key players – As I have already said, the Mexico defence is one to stay clear of, so I would go for Hernandez who is a decent price at 7.7. Peralta, as mentioned earlier, could be a good bet and has a decent scoring record.

Croatia

Again, yet another country that didn’t exactly inspire in qualifying. And like Mexico, Croatia have also recently changed their manager, a rookie, Niko Kovac. Croatia, however, are well past their peak and will be battling for 2nd place no doubt.

Strengths – The centre of midfield is where we will see most inspiration from this side, as it contains two of La Liga’s best playmakers in Modric and Rakitic.

Weaknesses – Croatia rely far too much on the few key players that they have, and have a lack of depth in their squad, especially down the flanks.

Things to learn from qualifying – Croatia need to get a plan and stick to it. Like Mexico, a lack of tactical know how led to a leaky defence, they let in 9 goals whilst only scoring 12 over in the 9 games.

Things to learn since South Africa – Tactical changes have seen Croatia change to a 4-1-4-1, in an attempt to see them win the ball higher up the pitch. So, it could be worth looking out for the likes of Modric, as they could play in a more attacking role this time around.

Key players – I would be looking at the two earlier mentioned midfielder’s here. Modric (6.6) is in great with Madrid and on a high after winning the Champions League. However, for FiT points I would be more inclined to go for the far cheaper Rakitic (5.6), who has a better scoring record than Modric.

Cameroon

I am beginning to sound like a broken record here but Cameroon are yet another team that were very uninspiring in qualifying. In fact, if not for a result being overturned due to the opposition fielding an ineligible player they may not have made it to Brazil at all. And once again, Cameroon have a recently appointed manager in College Finke. Cameroon have had some success however, as they did hold a strong German side to a 2-2 draw recently.

Strengths – Despite the lack of forward potential, Cameroon do have a strong defence, and in particular a strong centre back pair, but they will still struggle to shut teams like Brazil out.

Weaknesses – They have a huge lack of attacking players (or good ones anyway) and in particular their lack of attacking midfielders means that arguably their best player, Eto’o, gets the least of the ball.

Things to learn from qualifying – Cameroon need to play a more attacking formation. In parts of qualifying they played 4-4-2 with a quartet of defensive midfielders! However, when they later switched to 4-3-3 they scored plenty more goals and they even experimented with 3 at the back in their last friendly.

Things to learn from South Africa – This time around Cameroon will be looking for a great deal more stability from last time out. With their star man Eto’o vowing to quit and then having to change manager half way through, left there 2010 campaign very unstable.

Key players – Most will expect this to be Eto’o, but I feel the defensive trio of Itandje (gk) and N’koulou/Chedjou (def), is much more important to this Cameroon side. However, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t encourage any one to buy a single Cameroon player, as they are likely to finish bottom of this group.

So, to sum up, it seems quite obvious that Brazil will win this group with ease, with all 3 the other countries appointing new managers and only just scraping through qualifying. Brazil are the obvious choice of players, but they do come with a price, so cheaper options like Willian (6.6) are maybe more realistic. It’s also worth noting however, that Mexico play after Croatia in the fixtures, so it may be worth a punt on Modric, Rakatic and maybe even Olic, with the view to then sell them out for Hernandez and co. I would stay well clear of all 3 defences in this group (other than the Brazilians) as all have been shaky since 2010, but if you were to go for a defender it would have to be Srna for me.

I hope this has helped improve your understanding of the 4 teams and helped in your quest to find the perfect iTeam.

Ben Harrison

This post was written by FiT Admin

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