If history is anything to go by, then the home fans should enjoy watching Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ in Sao Paulo, Fortaleza and Brasilia. A Seleção have a good record against all three opponents, although one of them has caused problems of late.
Brazil have played all three sides in past World Cups. The Opening Match in 2014 against Croatia is a repeat of Brazil’s first game in 2006, in Germany. On that occasion Kaka’s goal gave victory to the Pentacampeões, who also have fond memories of Cameroon. In the United States, in 1994, goals from Romario, Bebeto and Marcio Santos saw Brazil overcome the Africans 3-0 and book their place in the knockout stage of a tournament that would end with Dunga hoisting the trophy aloft. As for Mexico, it will be the fourth time the two nations have met each other in World Cup history. The record so far shows three Brazilian victories with 11 goals scored and none conceded. The last time they met, in 1962, A Seleção also ended up champions.
While Brazil have a positive record against Mexico in World Cups, the host country would do well to heed the lessons provided by a recent series of frustrating defeats at other tournaments. Brazil have lost no less than four finals against El Tri: the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament in London, and two CONCACAF Gold Cups, in 1996 and 2003. That’s not to mention lower age groups where Mexico were also Brazil’s nemesis in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru, and as recently as October, in the quarter-finals of the U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
Morale among the four squads is very different. Brazil are brimming with confidence after winning the FIFA Confederations Cup in the summer, while Mexico have had a torrid time recently. La Verde changed their coach twice in three months and a qualifying spot from the CONCACAF region almost escaped them. A play-off was needed to book their place in Brazil, with Miguel Herrera in charge. Croatia also required a play-off to qualify, and like Mexico appointed a new coach before the do-or-die encounter. With Niko Kovac in the dugout, Croatia drew 0-0 in Iceland and beat the Nordic team in the home leg, in Zagreb. Cameroon confirmed their place with a thumping 4-1 win in front of their own fans, following a goalless draw in Tunisia in the first match.
Ones to watch
Neymar (BRA), Fred (BRA), Thiago Silva (BRA), Oribe Peralta (MEX), Raul Jimenez (MEX), Samuel Eto’o (CAM), Alexandre Song (CAM), Mario Mandzukic (CRO) and Luka Modric (CRO).
The big match
Mexico-Croatia: With Brazil favourites to prevail in Group A, the Mexicans and Croatians are likely to have a decisive battle in the final round of matches on 23 June, in Recife. The game pits together two teams who struggled through qualifying, changed their coaches, but who are known for playing attacking football that is pleasing on the eye.
Blast from the past
Brazil 1-0 Croatia, 13 June 2006, Berlin
Reigning world champions Brazil ran out at the Olympiastadion set on defending their title. In a close-fought match Kaka’s special talent proved the difference. The attacking midfielder struck a fine long-range effort into the net on the stroke of half time, which proved the winner. Croatia’s current coach Niko Kovac does not have happy memories of the game, as he limped off injured in the first half.
Did you know?
Since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Brazil have only ever needed two matches to guarantee their place in the knockout phase. The last time A Seleção needed three games to qualify was in 1978, in Argentina, when a Roberto Dinamite goal defeated Austria to send them through.
38 – the number of times Brazil and Mexico have played each other. A Seleção have clocked up 22 victories, there have been six draws and El Tri have come out on top ten times. Mexico have scored 36 goals and conceded 71. Brazil’s significant advantage in the statistics does not reflect the recent past though, with each team winning four of the last eight encounters.
— Samuel Eto'o (@setoo9) December 6, 2013
Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon’s star man expressed his excitement ahead of the World Cup, as can be seen from the above Tweet.
Who will make it to the last sixteen? Can Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon shock Brazil on home soil?