We’re off and running in the 2014 World Cup and after Brazil got things going with a 3-1 win over Croatia, the other two contenders in Group A will get their respective campaign’s underway.
The second game of the showpiece will see Mexico and Cameroon lock horns in Natal, with both teams looking to set a positive precedent for the remainder of the group stage. And we’re set for an intriguing contest between two sides that are wholly unpredictable.
Here are the projected line-ups for this vital Group A contest:
After a turbulent qualifying campaign, Mexico finally managed to make it to the World Cup after a 9-3 aggregate playoff win over New Zealand.
Miguel Herrera—who was Mexico’s fourth manager of 2013—is the man tasked with getting this talented but inconsistent group to play to their potential and he’ll be hoping to extend El Tri’s fine record of getting out of the group stages; a feat that they’ve achieved at the last five World Cups. Rather frustratingly, they have failed to progress to the quarter-final on every occasion, though.
Whilst Mexico have typically turned up in the tournament’s group stages, Cameroon’s record in recent major tournaments leaves much to be desired. The reason? Their preparations have regularly been disrupted by off-pitch issues and unfortunately, that patent has continued ahead of this tournament. The team refused to travel on their initial flight to South America after a row over bonuses, although an agreement was reached the next day and they did eventually make it to Brazil.
Tactically, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the game plays out. Herrera is somewhat unpredictable when it comes to his tactical blueprint and team selections, but Javier Hernandez will miss out on a starting berth in favor of a front-two of Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos floating just behind Herrera confirmed on Thursday.
Behind what’s expected to be the aforementioned front two, El Tri will line-up with three central defenders and two vibrant wing-backs, with a dynamic midfield three in front of them. They’ll play with positive intent and spades of energy, but that’s likely to put some strain on the central defensive threesome, which can occasionally look a little creaky.
Whether Cameroon have the attacking talent to take advantage of these potential weak-points is another matter entirely. They have plenty of pace in their XI and wide players like Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar have the attributes to stretch this Mexican defence. Skipper Samuel Eto’o will spearhead the attack, and he’ll have to be at his prolific best to capitalize on any opportunities his teammates conjure.
But that’s where the problems arise for this Cameroonian team. Their midfield trio is workmanlike and diligent, but lacks a player that is intricate and creative in the final third. Without that killer pass, it could be difficult for the Indomitable Lions to make the most of Mexico’s defensive deficiencies.
After the glitz and the glamour of the opening fixture, this is where the hard graft towards the knockout stages really begins in earnest. Both sides know that they’re unlikely to get anything from their game against the Brazilian team and as such, a result here is paramount if they’re to harbour any realistic hopes of making it to the knockout stages.
Of the two sides, Mexico look best placed to take the three points. They have the energy in their team to match Cameroon and when they get into dangerous areas, a lot more quality to take advantage.
Prediction: Mexico 2-0 Cameroon