Widely heralded as favorites for this summer’s World Cup, Brazil appear to have unshakable momentum owing to last summer’s impressive Confederations cup triumph. However, the suspicion remains certainly from this writer’s perspective that emerging from their group may be the most difficult obstacle they encounter during the tournament.
A group containing Cameroon, Croatia and Mexico was widely dismissed as relatively straightforward for the hosts upon the completion of the draw; however upon closer inspection the truth is somewhat different. All three of the aforementioned teams have disappointed over recent years (Mexico’s Olympic triumph apart) and this tournament represents the perfect opportunity to re-establish themselves on the hierarchy of the footballing world. In addition, the weight of expectation on the hosts may prove difficult to bear, although last summer’s confederations cup triumph would seem to signify they are capable of reaping the rewards of such expectancy. However, make no mistake the confederations and World Cups are two entirely different challenges and therefore a cloud will hang over the Brazilian squad until they suppress these worries.
In the context of the group, the opening game will quickly determine Brazil’s prospects in the tournament. In Croatia, they are facing one of Europe’s elite teams which haven’t quite excelled as they should have over the last six years. Although they will be missing their pivotal marksman Mario Mandzukic for their opening encounter, they still possess the ability and crucially belief to upstage the hosts. Another factor to consider is their midfield which contains Modric, Kovacic and the Barcelona bound Ivan Rakitic. In the hosts they are facing a Brazilian team without the sparkle of previous tournaments and in Fred they have a striker who frankly should be nowhere near the squad. Seriously can you picture a team winning a World Cup with a striker called Fred!
The other two participants in the group have disappointed repeatedly over the last number of years. Cameroon in particular were appalling at the 2010 World Cup and qualified this time from one of the weakest groups imaginable. However, they are beginning to emerge as a potent unit and the recent dispute over pay will foster a team spirit that will be difficult to quench. In Webo they possess a striker who has had a fantastic season in Turkey and their exciting midfield with potential tournament superstars Matip and Salli could cause their opponents some serious headaches. Mexico too needs a big tournament to augment their 2012 Olympic triumph. Their form post 2012 was atrocious and but for a change in management they would have missed out on this summer’s tournament. Possessing both speed and goals this Mexican outfit will be a tricky opponent for each team and could in my opinion top the group provided they win their opening game. Aquino and Herrera could illuminate the tournament and Hernandez will be a danger provided he manages to stay onside.
Another point to note in respect of Brazil’s opponents is the number of players who will view the tournament as their opportunity to put themselves on the transfer window. Hernandez, Mandzukic and Song are but three of a host of players from these countries that will be seeking pastures new after the tournament. Admittedly, this Brazilian squad should navigate their way through a dangerous group, but if they don’t you can’t say you weren’t forewarned. Should they progress then they will be definite favorites to lift the trophy on home soil, but emerging from this group may be their hardest assignment!