23 June 2014 | News Comments

Monday's World Cup Group A previews

Cameroon v Brazil
2100, Estádio Nacional de Brasília

Despite sitting top of Group A after two matches, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side have come in for criticism amongst the home faithful after failing to deliver the level of performance expected. Against Cameroon there will be no room for excuses: the Indomitable Lions crashed out of the tournament after a 4-0 defeat to Croatia and are yet to find the net in this tournament. To add to their woes, Barcelona's Alex Song will miss this game after recklessly lashing out and earning himself a red card.

Like a knife through butter
In qualifying Brazil preferred the direct route to goal, scoring two thirds of their efforts through the middle. Cameroon conceded half of their goals from central positions in qualifying, and while this wasn't the highest amount - eight teams conceded a greater share - the way they've allowed teams in so far will be a cause for concern.

Were the Mexicans on to something...?
If they are to score, Cameroon may be well advised to fall back on a tactic that served them well in qualifying - shooting from distance. With limited striking options, they scored 22% of goals from outside the area on the road to Brazil, a higher share than all but two of their fellow finalists, while nearly half of the goals Brazil conceded during 2013 came from long range. This may have influenced Mexico's preparations ahead of their draw with the hosts - they lashed 11 of their 13 shots at Julio Cesar from outside the area.

Row Z
Cameroon are in real danger of heading home from the tournament without breaking their duck. The loss of captain and star striker Samuel Eto'o has obvious repercussions, but with the second-lowest shooting accuracy at the tournament - only four of their 20 efforts have found the target - much more finesse will be needed if they are to upset the hosts.

Summary
Brazil will surely see this match as an opportunity to impress their fans with the expansive football they have been demanding since that opening tussle in Sao Paulo. Croatia put four past a disorganised Cameroon defence and many will expect the same level of dominance from the hosts. One player in particular who will want to shine is Fred, whose two lacklustre displays have resulted in just one shot on target and a fortunately-won penalty. If he fails to find the net here, his place in Scolari's starting XI will come under serious scrutiny ahead of the less forgiving knockout phase.

Best bookmakers’ odds available  
Cameroon 22-1
Draw 17-2
Brazil 1-6

Croatia v Mexico
2100, Arena Pernambuco

Mexico head into this game knowing that a third consecutive clean sheet at the finals would be enough to see them through at the expense of their European rivals.

Buoyed by an impressive goalless draw with the hosts last time out, Miguel Herrera's men will be confident of progression from the group stages for a sixth successive finals, but should not take these opponents lightly.

The clinical Croatians smashed four goals past Cameroon last time out to kick-start their own campaign and will need to adopt a similar attacking approach in order to secure the three points needed to leapfrog Mexico and make the knockout stages.

Croatia will stick to what they know
Niko Kovac's side should continue to play with width. No team at the finals created more goals during qualifying from wide areas than the Croatians' 65% and they continued in this vein against Brazil and Cameroon. Four of their five goals came from the flanks and the fifth was a corner. Full-back Dario Srna was particularly busy against the Indomitable Lions, attempting seven crosses from advanced positions

Beware the late Mexico charge
During qualifying Mexico scored 35% of their goals in the final 15 minutes of matches - a record only surpassed by Portugal, Nigeria and Australia. Furthermore, in the previous five matches in which they have scored, more than 60% of their goals arrived in the final half hour. Kovac's men have already showed a tendency to concede late goals at this World Cup - they held Brazil until the final 20 minutes when Neymar and Oscar each scored to dash their hopes. The Europeans will be encouraged by their record during qualifying, though, when they did not concede once in the final quarter of an hour.

Summary
Chances of qualification from Group A favour Mexico, who only require a point, whereas their European opponents need all three. However, Croatia have already demonstrated their attacking prowess with five goals in their first two games, so they will certainly ask questions of the Mexican defence and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa may need to show the sort of form which shut out Brazil. It will certainly require another stubborn performance to deny the Croatians what would only be their second appearance in the World Cup knockout stages.

Best bookmakers’ odds available  
Croatia 9-5
Draw 7-4
Mexico 5-2