2014 FIFA World Cup – Group A
Thursday, June 12 – Sunday, July 13, 2014
Host Nation: Brazil
Defending Champion: Spain
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
The 2014 FIFA World Cup gets underway June 12 as the host nation Brazil takes on Croatia in the opening game in Sao Paulo. Let’s take a look at the four teams in group A with their odds to win the group and the World Cup with odds courtesy of Bookmaker.
Brazil (-485 group, Cup +285)
Not only is Brazil a heavy favorite to win the group, they are favored to win the whole thing over Argentina, Spain and Germany. Brazil is the only nation to have played in every World Cup and are currently #4 in the FIFA World Rankings
As the host nation, Brazil escaped the rigors of qualifying in South America. However, that can be good and bad. Sure, they are well rested, but they really haven’t been tested much in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Brazil also hosted the eight team 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup which featured the regional champions from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Brazil beat Spain in the Championship of of that tournament. Besides the Confed Cup they haven’t played a meaningful game other than friendlies since the 2011 Copa America where they flamed out in the quarterfinals against Paraguay.
Brazil has won five World Cups but none since 2002. They haven’t made it past the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups in 2006 and 2010. Brazil lost in the quarterfinals in 2010 to the Nehterlands. That is unacceptable for the passionate Seleção fans. Anything less than a sixth championship will be viewed as a miserable failure.
Brazil certainly has the talent and really has no weaknesses. Young striker Neymar (age 22) has already become one of the best players in the world along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He isn’t alone as the squad also includes such talented players as Robinho, Dani Alves, Fred, Oscar, and Hulk. Veteran keeper Julio Cesar minds the net. Brazil is coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Brazil opens with Croatia before playing Mexico and closing group play with Cameroon. The group isn’t too challenging, and it would be a huge upset if Brazil did not win this group easily. Brazil could face Spain, Chile or the Netherlands in the round of 16, and anyone would be a tough challenge. Possible quarterfinal opponents include Colombia, Uruguay, England and or Italy. Still I like Brazil to win the World Cup. It is a long way away but there is a good chance they could face arch-rival Argentina in the Final.
Croatia (+725 group, Cup field +1663)
Croatia is making their their fourth appearance in the World Cup since 1998. Croatia did not qualify in 2010. The Croats finished third in 1998 in their World Cup debut, but did not make it out of the group stage in 2002 or 2006. Croatia is currently #20 in the world rankings.
Croatia opened their European qualifying group with a 5-0-1 record. However, they could only manage one more point in the next 4 games. Croatia finished a distant second behind group winner Belgium but still held off Serbia for second. Croatia advanced to the World Cup by beating Iceland in a two leg playoff 2-0 on aggregate.
Igor Stimac resigned as Croatia’s coach after the last group game in qualifying. Niko Kovac, who was the head coach of the Croatian under 21 team replaced him. Kovac led Croatia to the playoff win over Iceland.
Croatia is led by captain Darijo Srna. Other key players include Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, Eduardo, Ivica Olic, Nikita Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic. Stipe Pletikosa is the goalkeeper. Most of the top Croatian stars play in the English Premier League or the German Bundesliga, so they should be well prepared for the big stage of the World Cup. This team can play with anyone but needs to be more consistent than they were in qualifying.
After opening with Brazil, Croatia then plays Cameroon before closing with Mexico. The Croatia-Mexico game will likely decide who advances to the knockout stage other than Brazil. Still, with the winner of rugged group B awaiting in the round of 16, it would be an upset if either Croatia or Mexico advanced to the quarters or beyond.
Mexico (+950 Group, +12278 Cup)
Mexico is making their 15th appearance in the World Cup. Mexico is currently #19 in the world rankings. Mexico has lost in the round of 16 in five straight World Cups, including to Argentina in 2006 and 2010.
However, it was not easy for Mexico to get to Brazil. Mexico won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, and looked like they would cruise to qualify in a relatively weak CONCACAF federation. El Tri struggled to score though, and were even losing or drawing games in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City were they had been nearly invincible. Mexico won only 2 games in the 10 final group games.
Mexico found themselves on the verge of not even qualifying for the Cup as they were in fourth place in the group heading into the final day of qualifying. Mexico lost at Costa Rica that day and Panama was up 2-1 on the USA in a meaningless game for the Americans as they had already clinched the top spot in the group. Panama would have passed Mexico with a win, but the United States scored two stoppage time goals to win 3-2 and keeping Mexico alive. The Mexicans still had to beat New Zealand in a two leg playoff to qualify but Mexico beat the Kiwis easily.
The struggles in qualifying cost coach Jose Manuel de la Torre his job. Interim coach Victor Manuel Vucetich lasted two matches before he was dismissed as well. Miguel Herrera took over for the playoff against New Zealand and will coach the team in Brazil.
El Tri will be led by the dynamic striker Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez. Other key players include Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos, Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez, and Carlos Pena. Mexico’s chances to advance took a serious hit over the weekend when midfielder Luis Montes suffered a broken leg in a friendly against Ecuador. Montes is out indefinitely. Jose de Jesus Corona is a very capable goalkeeper.
Mexico opens with Cameroon before facing Brazil and then closing with Croatia. As mentioned, I don’t see either Mexico or Croatia advancing past the round of 16.
Cameroon (+3500 group, Cup field +1663)
Cameroon is making their sixth trip to the World Cup since 1982. They advanced to the quarterfinals in 1990 but haven’t made it out of the group stage since then, including in 2010 in South Africa. Cameroon is currently #50 in the world rankings.
Cameroon qualified from Africa in a tough group with Libya, Congo DR, and Togo. Cameroon won the group with 13 points after Togo had a win overturned for using an ineligible player. Cameroon then beat Tunisia in a two leg playoff 4-1 on aggregate.
Cameroon is coached by Volker Finke. The Indomitable Lions are led by Samuel Eto’o, a world class player who plays his pro football for Chelsea in England. Nicolas N’Koulou, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Aurelien Chedjou, Alex Song, Jean Makoun and Stephane Mbia are other key players. Idriss Carlos Kameni is the goalkeeper.
This is a veteran team with a lot of experience, and they could surprise either Mexico or Croatia. Still a draw or two might be the best case scenario for Cameroon. It is unlikely they make it out of the group.
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