A is for aficionados

Being the Casual Hooligans we are we’re more interested in providing the fan’s perspective of football and bringing our fellow football aficionados information that is pertinent, insightful, and most importantly – interesting. Instead of providing you previews of the groups and teams involved in the World Cup we are proud to present our best information on all 32 teams.

Group A is as good of a draw as hosts Brazil were hoping to get. It’s definitely one us aficionados are looking forward to watching because it’s full of question marks as to how the teams are going to play against each other. Not as straight forward as some may be lead to believe. Here is Group eh… I mean..

Group A

Group A

Brazil

Brazil

Brazil qualified being the host nation though it likely didn’t help… they could’ve used more games to get together. A big part of their story is coach “Big Phil” Scolari. Luiz Felipe Scolari was the coach that won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 – he’s back for more. He is Very highly respected in Brazil and a charismatic fellow.

“The first thing he thinks about when setting up his team is the defense. He knows we have top-quality attacking players, so if the defense is strong and doesn’t concede a goal the strikers will do the rest for you.” – Thiago Silva on Scolari

One huge thing holding Brazil back from winning the glorious trophy is their possible path to the final. If they top the group and face the best opposition they can Brazil will have to do it the hard way by:

  • Finishing top of their group
  • Then playing the Netherlands, Colombia, and Germany in order
  • Finally by playing one these four teams in the final – Spain, Argentina, Portugal, or Uruguay

Brazil have showed they can do well on the World stage as of late with a successful Confederations Cup a year ago. They really seemed to find that rhythm about their game which earned them the Samba Kings nickname. “I am not sure what changed but the team acquired an identity. We needed time to train and get to know the new style so that everything flowed and we were able to do that before the Confederations Cup. It went well and the unity the team showed on and off the pitch was fantastic.” – Neymar, golden boy for Brazil and face of this tournament.

This is the second time the World Cup comes to Brazil. The last time it was here they lost the deciding match against Uruguay so they’ll be looking to rid themselves of the ghosts of the past on home soil. As a football and Brazilian legend recalls the national pain, “In 1950 I saw my father cry for the first time. I went to him and said, Father why are you crying? And he said to me.. Brazil just lost the World Cup.” – Pele.

Brazilian football has been gaining a reputation over many years which has not only changed the game but has also integrated itself into national identity. In fact, it’s the only nation to make it to every single World Cup tournament. As said best by a Brazilian football expert, “(Brazilian football) at its best is the paradigm of how we want the game to be played. It’s musical, amazing skills, friendship, and teamwork the beautifully mixed and working together.” – Alex Bellos, Author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life.

Brazil also has statistics on their side. No team has ever won the World Cup without having a their coach be from that same country (Scolari is Brazilian) and about a third of the teams who have won the World Cup have done it on home soil. We’ll see if they can keep these stats going for another four years.

Mexico

Mexico

Mexico will be playing all 3 games in the northern part of Brazil.. where it’s gonna be hot. Though that’s not necessarily a detriment to the Mexican cause where they’re accustomed to warmer conditions. They’ll be looking for any advantage they can take after only getting two wins out of ten qualifying matches.

It’s not a secret this national side has had a tumultuous run to the world cup and as a result they hired a new coach – but will a shiny new gaffer be able to solve the offensive failures? He certainly has gone for the option of relying on players who play domestically when choosing 16 of the 23 squad players and with four of those players helping León record it’s second Mexican league championship in a row these players will be hungry for more success. 

The defense is good but with Chicharito dropping in form the memory of Gio Dos Santos’ brilliance may need to spark life into the final third to get any points. In fact it may be good enough to make Chicharito go back to improving his excellent 35 goals in 58 international games.

They do play the versatile 5-3-2 formation can at times leave the back line exposed so their back line will have to be disciplined. With the likes of Rafa Marquez getting older it may be his last World Cup to make an impact. They’ll need all the experience they can muster on the field to take on the likes of Brazil. Especially considering their interesting record against hosts Brazil. They have 10 wins out of 38 matches against Brazil – a record most teams would be very proud of – but their record on Brazilian soil is a miserable 1 win and 7 losses. They did however beat Brazil for the Olympic Gold medal in 2012 – after two years will a more experienced team be able to provide a true shock?

 

Croatia

Croatia

Croatia hardly qualified this time around. They were lucky to not draw the likes of France, Portugal, or Sweden and instead played a playoff series against Iceland. Funnily enough Iceland was the first country to recognise Croatia’s independence. Wouldn’t’ it have been better to send them some delicious Savijača as a thank you instead?

Their relatively new coach Niko Kovac was a national team player just two World Cups ago and will be looking to encourage the squad to attack at any chance they get. With a suspect defense they’ll be looking for their creative midfield and their prolific finishers up top to seal away the points. Their defense isn’t without a rock, however with Southampton defender Dejan Lovren coming off a great season with the his English club and standing at 6′ 2” he’ll be hoping to get his head on the ball on both ends of the pitch.

The best players for Croatia include prolific Modrić, the young Rakitic, and Kovacic rounding out a talented midfield with Mario Mandžukić and Eduardo da Silva representing the Chequered men up front. Speaking of the front men – “Super Mario”Mandžukić won’t be playing in the first match against Brazil due to a sloppy red card against Iceland. This means Brazilian born Eduardo will be looking to make both of his countries proud as he debuts for the Croatia in Brazil – a World Cup first!

Croatia will rely on their talented midfield to come up big in games against Cameroon and Mexico where their ability to counterattack may show to be the decisive element. They’ll have to convert their chances in front of goal which has been a bit of a wildcard in their tumultuous qualification campaign but with workhorse Olić likely playing in his final World Cup they certainly won’t be without inspiration.

 

Cameroon

Cameroon

The Indomitable Lions will be looking to build their reputation on the World Stage. Not only have they qualified for the World Cup seven times (the most out of any African country) but they also had a dream showing in 1990 where their performance made such an impact that FIFA announced in the next World Cup there would be another spot for African nations.

Reputations don’t come with some hiccups however with two notably poor showings. First in 1998 when they had three red cards and two disallowed goals in one loss vs. Chile, and secondly in 2010 when they went out at the group stage with zero points.

Following up that disappointment they hired a new coach with no previous international experience. Blooding or not the coach has had a good record so far with four wins, four draws, and two losses. It is reported that he purchased a refundable ticket to Brazil just in case.. likely due to Cameroon’s recent issues. This isn’t a good sign with a decently tough group and all their opponents ranked in the top 20 in FIFA’s rankings.

As always though it doesn’t come down to coach.. it comes down to what the players do on the pitch and they’ll be looking for the men in the awesome jerseys to do their best. Samuel Eto’o came out of retirement to lead the pride of indomitable Lions and though he is still a great player.. he is not as good as he used to be. God thing they have the likes of Alex Song and Stephan Mbia to play well. Mbia helped Sevilla secure their victorious Europa League campaign by scoring two key goals in the tournament and Alex Song is an experienced central defensive midfielder for Barcelona.

 

 

So here it was.. the best info we could give to summarize the first group in the World Cup. It seems the pundits may be overlooking Mexico’s semi-solid defense with the more defensively fragile teams in the group. This will be a group firing on all cylinders because no one expects Brazil to fail at the first hurdle – though that may be more of a blessing than a curse. Only time always tells but for now this is what we have to tell it by.


What are your thoughts on this group? Do you have any more interesting information on these teams you think I should include? Please comment and share below! 😀

One response to “A is for aficionados

  1. Brasil has the second strongest odds of winning their group, and for good reason. No one in this group will seriously challenge them. They will advance with Croatia in tow, unless they fall to the European curse in South America and allow Mexico to best them.

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