World Cup 2014: Guide to Group A

Brazil is buzzing with excitement ahead of the World Cup this summer and there are high expectations from all in the South American country.

Brazil kick off the tournament against Croatia on June 12th in a group that also contains Cameroon and Mexico. The Samba stars are the clear favorites to progress from Group A and should top the group with the likes of Neymar and Oscar leading the attack. If they do not finish top then there will be a feeling of major surprise all around the world.

That means that second place is up for grabs and all three remaining sides have what it takes to go through. Mexico have appeared in 14 World Cups and have made the quarter finals twice, but the last of those was in 1986. In the last two World Cup tournaments they have lost out to Argentina in the last 16.

And their task will not be any easier if they finish second in Group A, with the winners of Group B – expected to be Spain – waiting for them in the second round. But Javier Hernandez, Giovanni dos Santos, Rafael Marquez & co will be more interested in qualifying than who their next opponents will be. And they have as good a chance as any.

Mexico kick off their campaign against Cameroon, a side that will be able to deal with the heat and one that will be hoping to pull off a couple of great results. The likes of Marseilles Nicolas Nkoulou, midfield hardman Stephane Mbia – who spent the season on loan at Sevilla from QPR and won the Europa League – and Barcelona’s ex-Arsenal man Alexandre Song provide the African side with plenty of defensive solidity. And up front Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o will be leading the line in a familiar Cameroon squad.

Good performances from their experienced players could well lead to a place in the second round and their stars will be hoping to have an iconic moment of their own to match legendary Roger Milla. Ranked 50th in the world, The Indomitable Lions’ best finish in a World Cup was when they reached the Quarter Finals in Italy in 1990. They are definitely not the favorites to go through, but it is hard to call beyond the Brazilians.

Croatia make up the numbers in Group A but will be going to Brazil to do anything but that. They will be aiming to qualify using their blend of skill and hard work. Their star man is undoubtedly Champions League winner Luka Modrić and the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Dejan Lovren will also be important.

But manager Niko Kovač will have to do without Niko Kranjcar after he was injured playing in the Championship Play-Off Final for QPR against Derby County. However, the side that came third in 1998 will be looking for another successful World Cup run. A place in the second round is definitely not beyond them, but the weather may prove difficult for the Croatians to deal with.

The main attraction though is, of course, hosts and five time winners Brazil. Led by Phil Scolari, the man that was in charge when they last won the tournament in 2002, anything other than victory in this summer’s tournament would leave a very bad taste in the mouths of the fans. They are one of the favorites to win the tournament and may do so riding on a wave of excitement in the country.

There have been well documented rioting and protesting from civilians in Brazil that are unhappy the tournament is being held in their country. They believe the money would’ve been better spent elsewhere. However, on the flip side there are many in Brazil that are looking forward to hosting the biggest tournament in world football.

With the tournament returning to its spiritual home for the first time in 64 years, the Brazilians will be hoping for World Cup number six. Their poster boy Neymar will be looking to put a turbulent year behind him and lead Brazil to glory, whilst the likes of David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Hulk all possess star quality. Brazil should go through to the second round as group winners, and they will only get stronger throughout the tournament.