2014 World Cup Preview: Group A
We now find ourselves less than a month away from the 2014 FIFA World Cup,and teams are finalizing their best rosters to make their best run for the Cup. In case you've never seen the World Cup tournament, the tournament is played with two phases. The first phase is group play-- eight groups of four teams each. Each team plays the other three teams in their group once. A win gives a team three points, a tie is one point, with the losing team getting no points awarded them. Top two teams from each group advance to the next phase, the knockout stage. From this point on there are no more ties. Win and move on, lose and go home.
Let's begin by breaking down each group and which teams will advancing into the knockout stage. First up, is Group A.
Brazil- the hosts come into the tournament on a huge high after defeating Spain-- the defending World Cup Champs-- in the Confederations Cup final a year ago. They also one of the most, if not the most, exciting player in this year's tournament in Neymar. A Selecao are considered one of the favorites to win the whole, but only have one possible obstacle in its way-- and it might not be another team in the tournament. The health of Neymar is the most important factor. He injured his foot about a month ago during the Copa del Rey final while playing with his club team, Barcelona. He has been sitting out the remainder of the season with Barcelona with the idea that rest and some physical therapy will have him ready for the World Cup. Even if Neymar isn't 100%, it easy to assume Brazil will make it out of the group stage and advance to the knockout phase of the tourney-- Brazil hasn't needed all three games to guarantee a spot in the next stage since the 1978 World Cup.
Mexico- El Tri have struggled since winning the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, by beating Brazil. They were forced to win a playoff matchup against New Zealand to earn a spot in the World Cup. With players like Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez, "Chicharito," and Giovanni Dos Santos; Mexico have plenty of firepower but don't always seem to always work coherently. Of all the teams in the group, Mexico is the one team that has given Brazil fits in recent memory. For all their struggles to qualify for the tournament, they are the the best equipped team-- other than Brazil-- to advance out of group play.
Croatia- The Croatians come with Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric ready to make a run. Like in 2006, they open up play with Brazil-- they lost that match 1-0. The key game for them will be in the second game against Mexico. If they falter there, or even tie, Croatia will end up finding themselves on the outside looking in.
Cameroon- The possible wild card in this whole group, Cameroon comes in as the long shot to advance out of the group-- but this African team comes in with some talent in Alexandre Song and Samuel Eto'o. They could pull a huge upset in either of their first two games against Mexico and Brazil or fall flat and be eliminated before they take on Croatia to finish up their group play.
Best game to watch: Mexico vs Croatia- it is the second match for both teams and the one most likely to decide which team will join Brazil into the next round of play.
Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Brazil- 7 points
2. Mexico- 5 points
3. Croatia- 4 points
4. Cameroon- 0 points