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Super Moderator⭐
Staff member
Aug 13, 2008
Group A, the group of the host nation, and possibly even the favourites. It seems that the draw has been kind to Brazil, and they will be expected to qualify from the group easily. The battle for second place and qualification to the next round will be close, with all three of the other teams standing a chance.


Qualification: Automatic as hosts, but their form in friendlies and the Confederations Cup has been good, though they haven't faced too many tests in that time.
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari - Brazilian legend, the people and media's choice to be appointed manager in November 2012. Won the tournament with Brazil in 2002, and then took Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 and the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup. Questions were asked over his squad selection, but he's the perfect man for Brazil.
Squad: Some big names are absent, the likes of Kaka, Robinho and Ronaldinho, who have all been in and around the squad after being central for years. However, others such as Coutinho at Liverpool have missed out. Despite this, it's clear that the Brazil squad has immense talent, with the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Willian, Luiz, Dante forming a formidable spine to a strong team.
Tactics: Very attacking. Usually in a 4-2-3-1 with Hulk and Neymar either side of a central striker and one of their many attacking midfielders in just behind. They can have a bit more bite in midfield though, and opt to go 4-3-3 with 3 tougher midfielders in there, which is when Ramires, Paulinho, Gustavo and Fernandinho will make an impact.
Strengths: Powerful and for the first time in years, strong defensively. Dani Alves and Marcelo are either side of Thiago Silva, David Luiz or Dante in a back four which handpicks the best players from Europe's biggest clubs. Finding a regular centre-back pairing will be key.
Weaknesses: Goalkeeper. Julio Cesar, of QPR fame, is first choice, and has barely played in a couple of years now, other than a short loan spell at Toronto at the end of this season. His backups are lacking in experience at the top level, and both still play in Brazil.
Key man: Neymar. If there is ever an example of a country relying on one man, this is it. 30 goals in 47 caps shows why, though his form at Barcelona has not been as prolific as it was at Santos, and has perhaps shown how he has struggled to deal with the expectation and pressure.
Fun fact: Only lost 2 of their last 17 World Cup matches.

Qualification: Through the play-offs after losing out to Belgium in the qualification stage. Two losses to Scotland didn't help their cause, though they comfortable defeated Iceland to secure qualification to the finals.
Manager: Niko Kovac - Little experience, he was captain under Bilic in the 2006 tournament, and has managed the under 21's, but this is his first taste of management, and it won't be easy taking his country to the World Cup. Liked by fans and assisted by his brother, little is expected of him, but will be hoping to continue the form they've had so far.
Squad: Shallow. The key players in their team are world class, with the likes of Mandzukic, Modric and Rakitic, but there is little more to the squad, and any injuries to these players will see them struggle. Defensive midfield and left back are the two key areas where talent is lacking, but they have a number of recognisable names, although unfortunately, many such as Ivica Olic, Niko Kranjcar and Eduardo are past their best.
Tactics: Usually a 4-2-3-1 in order to accommodate their talented midfielders, with one of the strikers playing out wide, but they are known to switch to a 4-4-2, particularly when chasing the game, to utilise the aerial presence of Mandzukic and Jelavic.
Strengths: The central playmakers of Modric and Rakitic will create chance after chance against almost anyone, there a few players who are more creative in the world, the only question will be if the rest of the team are up to scratch and on the same wavelength.
Weaknesses: Depth. The starting 11 is strong, but any injuries could destroy their campaign, particularly if to one of the two players aforementioned. Their defence is also slow and ageing, as they're not expected to name a single defender who is under the age of 25.
Key man: Luka Modric. Modric has been superb for Real Madrid this season and will be looking to carry this form into the World Cup, he's developed the strength to hold off the tougher sides but has retained his elegance and creativity on the ball, which is just what Croatia will need.
Fun fact: Not 'fun' as such, but defender Josip Suminic will miss out after he was banned for 10 matches after celebrating their play-off victory by screaming Nazi chants over the microphone.

Qualification: A very poor campaign saw them draw 5 and lose 3 of their 10 qualification games, only finishing 3 points ahead of lowly Panama. They convincingly beat New Zealand in the play-off, but that didn't improve the situation much and fans were hugely disappointed.
Manager: Miguel Herrera - Only came in before the qualification play-off, the ex-player was capped 19 times in the 1990s, and has impressed so far by playing attacking football and has gained the support of the fans. Updates his Facebook and Twitter page almost every day.
Squad: Talented with experience of playing at the top level with many playing in Europe. However, the likes of Giovani Dos Santos and Chicharito are not guaranteed a start, with many domestically based players preferred to those who ply their trade in Europe.
Tactics: Rarely change from their trusted 5-3-2 formation, the only real changes you can expect to see are how attacking the wing backs will be and the players that make up the starting 11. Most of the play out wide will go through them, as the midfield three stay central.
Strengths: This squad has got the lowest expectations of any Mexican side in years, but they have the technical and tactical ability mixed with the skill and pace to prove a threat against even the best defences. They are not short of goals either.
Weaknesses: Herrera has only been in charge for 2 competitive games, and is yet to find his best 11 and get them to gel. The midfield looks weak and the defence is ageing and slow, but if Herrera can work out his best 11 quickly then that may paper over the cracks.
Key man: Oribe Peralta. Mexico's number one striker, he's a late bloomer aged 30 but has scored 23 goals in 30 appearances for Santos Laguna and has been labelled the best player at this World Cup that plays outside of Europe. He scored 5 in two games in the qualification play-off, and will look to carry his excellent form into the tournament.
Fun fact: Manager Miguel Herrera missed out on the 1994 World Cup as a player after punching a photographer in a league game shortly before the tournament, and the FA would not allow him to go.

Qualification: Beat Tunisia 4-1 in a play-off and looked convincing throughout, their qualification was never really in doubt, although tactical experiments at the start of the campaign weren't quite as solid as their later form which guaranteed qualification.
Manager: Volker Finke - The 66 year old German has managed in several continents but did not convince the public who were sceptical of a foreigner taking over after previous appointments, but has done okay since coming in and was recently announced Cameroon sports personality of the year.
Squad: All based in Europe, this squad is one of the strongest in years, and has a number of players at Europe's top clubs, you only need to see the likes of Alex Song at Barcelona and Samuel Eto'o at Chelsea to know that. The diversity of the squad is a worry, with it being very defender heavy.
Tactics: Either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 depending on how you look at it, with the difference being how far forward the wingers go, they sometimes tend to stay deeper, allowing Jean Makoun to move in to a more advanced role, but are known to get further forward if goals are needed. A brief experiment with 4-4-2 in qualifying proved disastrous.
Strengths: Defence. Itandje has been revitalised in goal, while Audrelien Chedjou and Nicolas N'Koulou have formed a formidable partnership at centre back, and they've even got Stephane M'Bia and Alex Song in front of them. They'll be hoping to shut teams out.
Weaknesses: Creativity. No attacking midfielders of note, and nothing will concern the big sides that much in terms of their attack. Eto'o is obviously the main threat, as he has been for several years now, but he has looked poor in recent times for club and country. Of the five strikers in the squad, three are 32 or older.
Key man: Charles Itandje. The ex-Liverpool keeper has been rejuvenated in goal for his nation, as he has produced some fantastic saves in top class performances during their qualification campaign. Still only a handful of caps at the age of 31, Itandje will look to make the number 1 shirt his.
Fun fact: No African side has been to as many World Cups as Cameroon.

12 June - Brazil vs Croatia, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sau Paulo, 9pm, ITV
13 June - Mexico vs Cameroon, Arena das Dunas, Natal, 5pm, ITV
17 June - Brazil vs Mexico, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 8pm, BBC
18 June - Cameroon vs Croatia, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 11pm, ITV
23 June - Cameroon vs Brazil, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 9pm, ITV
23 June - Croatia vs Mexico, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 9pm, ITV


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Great stuff. WC fever is definitely beginning to strike!:smile: