Group A Preview – The Race For 2nd Spot
World Cup 2014
Group A will likely be topped by Brazil, but who will finish in 2nd spot?
Group A, where Brazil were automatically placed as hosts, was the one that most wanted to avoid before a name had been drawn out of the hat. Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon were the nations unfortunate enough to be dealt that fate and it looks to be a three-way battle between them to earn the second qualification spot.
Brazil qualify as hosts but flexed their muscle in last summer’s Confederations Cup where they won all five matches to take the crown;
impressively beating Spain 3-0 in the final. The semi-competitive tournament was Brazil’s only meaningful football in nearly three years since the 2011 Copa America.
Croatia required a two-legged play-off to book their place in Brazil this summer. Current boss Niko Kovac, who guided the eastern Europeans to a 2-0 aggregate victory over Iceland, resurrected a troublesome group-stage campaign that ended with former manager Igor Štimac tendering his resignation. The former World Cup semi-finalists arrive at the tournament with low expectations.
Mexico also arrive in Brazil via a play-off after they saw off New Zealand 9-3 on aggregate following a disappointing fourth place finish – behind United States, Costa Rica and Honduras – in CONCACAF qualification.
In recent years the focus for El Tri has been to get to an elusive fifth game at the World Cup, this time around getting to a fourth game would be some achievement.
And finally, Cameroon’s qualification also came via a play-off win but, at least on paper, in a slightly more straightforward manner after they topped African qualifying Group I.
As with all African teams they were then required to meet another group winner in a two-legged play-off. And following a goalless draw in Radès the Indomitable Lions romped to a 4-1 home win over Tunisia to confirm their place at Brazil 2014.
Group A Winner
At odds of 1/4 to top Group A, Brazil are as safe a bet as you are likely to find anywhere at the 2014 World Cup. The hosts are in a different class to their three Group A opponents who each come into the tournament with varying levels of on and off the field problems to contend with.
Group A Qualification
Second spot in Group A looks to be a straight match-up between Croatia and Mexico who are each priced at Evens to make it through to the last 16. Cameroon (9/2) are discounted on the grounds of this arguably being one of the weakest African sides in Brazil, and the fact that manager Volker Finke seems to spend more time trying to keep peace amongst his players than working on football related matters.
Mexico boss Miguel Herrera’s stubbornness about playing Mexican league players ahead of the likes of Javier Hernandez, Guillermo Ochoa and Giovani Dos Santos – not forgetting the ostracised Carlos Vela – is likely to be El Tri’s downfall.
And so it is, by default, that we opt for Croatia to take second spot in Group A. They do at least have a new fresh manager in place, who has only positive experiences as the national team coach to draw from.