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Group A - Brazil v Cameroon + Croatia v Mexico


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12 JUN 2014 Brazil v Croatia 9pm sm_itv1hd.gif

13 JUN 2014 Mexico v Cameroon 5pm sm_itv1hd.gif

17 JUN 2014 Brazil v Mexico 8pm sm_bbc1hd.gif

18 JUN 2014 Cameroon v Croatia 11pm sm_itv1hd.gif

23 JUN 2014 Croatia v Mexico/ Cameroon v Brazil 9pm sm_itv1hd.gif

bra.pngBrazil: 19 Apps, 5 wins.

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro)
Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (both Paris St Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli)
Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar (all Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)

cmr.pngCameroon: 6 Apps, 0 wins.

Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)

Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Joel Matip (Schalke), Stephane Mbia (QPR), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux), Alex Song (Barcelona), Edgar Salli (Lens)

Forwards: Samuel Eto'o (unattached), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Pierre Webo (Fenerbahce), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem)

mex.pngMexico: 14 Apps, 0 wins.

Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigres), Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America), Diego Reyes (Porto), Rafael Marquez (Leon).

Midfielders: Miguel Angel Ponce (Toluca), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Javier Aquino (Villarreal), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Carlos Pena (Leon).

Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan Pulido (Tigres).

cro.gifCroatia: Apps 3, wins 0.

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Oliver Zelenika (Dinamo Zagreb).

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gordon Schildenfeld, Danijel Pranjic (both Panathinaikos), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sammir (Getafe), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka).

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina).
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I am not betting on them due to Felipao's squad selection and the curse of being current confederations holders.


If Felipao somehow makes history by winning his 2nd and the 6th I would be so happy.



Taking Brazil for Japan(2002) and South Africa(2010) SMH

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Neymar might be out inj now

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2 Days to go




The former Brazil striker believes Neymar is a great young player who will be able to 'handle the pressure' during this summer's tournament.

Ronaldo told the press: "He's very good. Neymar is an incredible guy, a great player, a youngster like I was in the first World Cup I played, which was in 1998.

"I'm sure he's very calm, he can handle the pressure well. He's a player who's shown that over and over. We have high hopes that he will be the best player in the tournament and that Brazil will be champions."

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Croatia: great midfield guile but what else?

June 9, 2014


There are few nations that love playmakers as much as Croatia, and national team coach Niko Kovac appears set to field three together in a highly creative midfield trio.

Kovac was a fine defensive midfielder, often in a 4-1-3-2, protecting the defence while his three midfield colleagues darted forward and put Croatia in control. He understands the role of a holding midfielder perfectly, but barring a surprise late change of heart, he won’t use one.

The format of the trio is the interesting thing about the side. Theoretically, any of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic could be used as the deepest of the three, or at the top of the three. They’re all multi-skilled playmakers capable of playing either role. However, while Kovacic made his international debut with a stunning display as the deep-lying playmaker in a fierce clash against great rivals Serbia, he’s instead expected to start as the number ten.

This is probably because Kovac wants his best two playmakers in deeper roles, commanding the centre of the pitch. Modric is long-established as Croatia’s most important player, and enjoyed a wonderful campaign at Real Madrid. But his midfield colleague Rakitic had a comparable campaign, captaining Sevilla to the Europa League title, and now seems Barcelona-bound. He offers more physical power than Modric, and together they’re capable of dominating games against almost any opposition in the tournament – arguably only Spain will field a more technically capable midfield partnership.


Possible Croatia XI, though Mandzukic is suspended against Brazil

The role of Kovacic is less certain. Although considered a number ten at Dinamo Zagreb, since moving to Inter he’s become more accustomed to a deep-lying role. As expected, he therefore wanders back into deep positions to receive short passes, which risks the side becoming broken – which is an amazingly silly problem considering Croatia are actually using three number tens together.

It’s not impossible that Kovac could turn to the steady Ognjen Vukojevic, a natural holding player, which could make sense in the first match against Brazil.

Forward options

On the flanks, Kovac effectively uses two forwards. Ivan Perisic is considered a winger, but in truth he possesses the qualities of a striker. He’s physically commanding, good in the air, can cut inside from either flank before shooting, but isn’t particularly good at crossing.

His position depends upon whether Kovac uses Ivica Olic or Eduardo, who are more literally strikers played out wide. Both will probably start games, with Kovac rotating his side.

Upfront Croatia have Mario Mandzukic, joint top scorer at Euro 2012 and a significantly better player since then, after two title-winning years at Bayern. Strong, good at holding the ball up and capable of starting the pressing, he’s an all-round striker but doesn’t guarantee goals. Still, he’s perfect to lead the line in this system, with two forwards out wide, and plenty of midfielders providing the support. He’s suspended from the opener against Brazil, however, so Nikica Jelavic could start if Kovac wants a tall central striker. Alternatively, Eduardo or Olic can move upfront.

Problems at the back

The main overlapping will come from captain Darijo Srna, now 32 but still a brilliantly effective attacking full-back, capable of motoring forward to receive passes and crossing without breaking stride. His battle against Neymar in the opener will be fascinating. On the opposite flank, Danijel Pranjic is first-choice in a more steady role, but picked up an ankle injury in the friendly win over Australia and is therefore doubtful. Croatia would probably be playing a right-footer if Pranjic fails to make it – Sime Vrsaljko or even Dejan Lovren.

Lovren would expect be used in the centre alongside Vedran Corluka. There are real concerns about this centre-back pairing, because they’re simply not on the same wavelength. Corluka’s mobility has declined dramatically and he always drops back towards the penalty area, while Lovren is accustomed to playing in a high line at Southampton and always wants to step up and play offside. Because of this problem, Gordon Schildenfeld – not as good at Lovren, but maybe more suited to the system, could well play instead. Stipe Pletikosa will be frequently called into action, despite the fact Croatia should dominate games.

The climate could also be problematic. Facing Cameroon in Manaus will be a huge ask for Croatia, and Mexico in Recife isn’t much better.


Croatia initially seem extremely attractive when you assess their midfield trio, but the more you consider areas of weakness – left-back, central midfield, the lack of pace at the back, the absence of genuine width – they feel like a team only boasting one quality.

That means they’ll control games, but converting this dominance into victories is another matter, and Croatia will probably go home in the first or second rounds, having impressed but frustrated.

Quick guide

Coach: Niko Kovac – combative on the pitch, rather restrained as coach

Formation: Probably 4-2-3-1, though the midfield triangle could be flipped

Key player: Srna – Croatia lack width and verticality otherwise

Strength: Can dominate the ball against anyone

Weakness: Lack of pace and poor positioning at the back

Key tactical question: Does Kovac take a backward step and play a holding midfielder?

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Brazil: organised, structured, and the favourites

June 9, 2014


There has never been more pressure on a side to win a World Cup: the hosts are always expected to exceed expectations, but the expectation in Brazil is always to win.

Following two disappointing quarter-final exits in 2006 and 2010 – and let’s not forget, Brazil started both those tournaments as favourites – another failure won’t be tolerated. In re-appointing Luiz Felipe Scolari, the World Cup-winning coach from 2002, Brazil find themselves with a fine manager capable of working, and thriving, under such great pressure. While judgement of his performance will be entirely dependent upon what happens in the next month, he’s performed an extremely good job so far.

Brazil were a shambles under his predecessor Mano Menezes and lost the Olympic final, having again been strong favourites to triumph. Scolari was appointed only 18 months before this World Cup, and after a period where his judgement seemed highly questionable – once naming Ronaldinho captain of this side last year, for example - Brazil were excellent at the Confederations Cup. Neymar was the best player in the tournament – take advantage of any Neymar World Cup free bet- and elsewhere Brazil had a settled, organised and disciplined side.


The ‘joga bonito’ ideal has always been something of a myth, with Brazil usually boasting a solid backbone and then giving a couple of talented individuals creative license and positional freedom. In that respect, while this isn’t a legendary Brazilian side and it’s easy to yearn for the ‘three Rs’ that dominated Scolari’s 2002 team, it’s actually roughly what we’ve come to expect from Brazil. The central midfielders are extremely basic and functional, the full-backs bomb on, the attackers combine nicely. Nevertheless, it’s also the most ‘European’ side Brazil have ever taken to a World Cup: the shape is 4-2-3-1, the speed of transitions are very quick, the attackers work hard without the ball.

It’s difficult to find a perfect comparison for this unusual Brazilian side. There are almost two sections – the centre and the wings. The central six are functional, disciplined and organised, and given strict positional instructions. Their job is primarily to support and bring the best out of the four located on the flanks who moves up and down, like a fighter plane with a variable-sweep wing.

Solid in the centre

Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is the only Brazilian at his third consecutive World Cup, but there are question marks surrounding his current level of ability, having played just eight matches this season – frozen out at QPR, and sent on loan to Toronto, a somewhat strange preparation for this World Cup.


Brazil's probable starting XI

Luckily, he’s protected by a solid back four, familiar from European title races and the latter stages of the Champions League. Thiago Silva is the reliable, consistent centre-back and probably still the best in the world, despite a below-par campaign at PSG. He has a very good relationship with David Luiz, who is calmer and more positionally disciplined than at club level, and brings the ball forward from the back.

As is often the case, Brazil use two hard-working deep midfielders, although they’re likely to play different roles. While the likes of Ramires and Fernandinho are options, the Confederations Cup duo of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho will be retained. Neither are particularly inventive, but are physically strong and play their roles well. Gustavo sometimes drops into the backline to further encourage the full-backs to attack, while Paulinho ventures forward more, and can pop up in goalscoring positions. When Brazil are ahead, however, expect the holding midfielders to stay in position and protect the centre-backs.

The full-backs might not be Cafu and Roberto Carlos, but they’re arguably the best in the competition. Daniel Alves is past his peak, but still attacks with incredible speed and energy, often making late, off-the-ball runs when the ball is on the left. For Brazil, Marcelo is the steadier of the two full-backs and heavily involved in passing moves, although he overlaps to allow Neymar to cut inside from the left. However, such is the emphasis on the full-backs to get forward, there’s a danger Brazil will be open to counter-attacks when Alves and Marcelo are high up the pitch.

9-10 combination

The unusual thing about this Brazilian side is that the number 10 and number 9 aren’t individualistic, ultra-talented footballers that demand the ball, but instead intelligent, selfless players who look to service others.

Oscar’s greatest asset is his tactical intelligence. He’s capable of marking opposition holding midfielders then darting forward on the break to spring counter-attacks. But he’s also absolutely brilliant at creating space for others, and his movement from that number ten position is vital. He’ll drift towards the flanks to allow Neymar and Hulk inside without Brazil losing overall width, will sometimes attack directly in behind the defence when Fred moves towards play, and he’ll also pull opponents out of position when Paulinho is seeking to make powerful midfield runs. He also battles back and defends the flanks when Brazil lose the ball with Hulk or Neymar in a central position. His technical quality is, of course, highly impressive too, but strangely that feels less significant.

Fred is a targetman and a hold-up player rather than a ruthless goalscorer, perhaps in the Serginho mould, although his critics were answered convincingly with five goals in five games at the Confederations Cup. He’ll surely score some more this summer, but Brazil’s success is probably more dependent on how effectively Fred creates space for, and plays in, Neymar.

Flair from the flanks

Neymar is unquestionably star of the side. Moving to Europe a year before this tournament appeared an odd move, and his debut Barca campaign wasn’t great. For Brazil, however, he’s been consistently brilliant with 31 goals in 49games, since making his debut in the first Brazil game after the last World Cup, marking a new era for the side. He’s a brilliant dribbler and combines trickery with ruthlessness in front of goal, generally cutting inside from the left and often surprising the opposition goalkeeper with a low shot inside the near post. Neymar is also a battler, though – at last summer’s Confederations Cup he both won, and conceded, the most free-kicks (per game) in the tournament.

On the opposite flank throughout the Confederations Cup was Hulk, although he was probably Brazil’s most underwhelming performer in that competition and his place could come under threat. Throughout the past 15 years Brazil always seem to have a debate about whether to play three or four attacking players. This almost always ends up with an attacker sacrificed and a midfielder brought in.

For example, in World Cup 2002, the defensive midfielder Kleberson came in for Juninho Paulista, a playmaker, midway through the competition and Brazil went onto win the tournament. In World Cup 2006, Carlos Alberto abandoned the ‘magic square’ of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Ronaldo at the quarter-final, replacing Adriano with Juninho Pernambucano, a central midfielder, and Brazil crashed out. Ahead of 2010, Dunga decided to modify his 4-2-3-1 and use Ramires as a shuttler, rather than an outright attacker, on the right. It even happened at the Olympics, with Hulk dropped midway through the tournament and Alex Sandro, more of a full-back, coming into the side.

Therefore, history suggests Hulk could be dropped again if he doesn’t perform well. Scolari loves him, though: Hulk collects the ball in wide positions and drives inside before shooting powerfully. The defensive alternative could be Ramires playing that right-sided role in a more narrow position, or alternatively Brazil moving to 4-3-3, and Oscar playing from the right.


Brazil’s best alternative attacking options are also accustomed to playing from the right. Willian has developed into a more hard-working, disciplined footballer under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, and is excellent on the break, though he’s probably main an Oscar back-up. Bernard, meanwhile, is something different. A tiny, 5′5 outside-right who likes skipping past opponents on the wing, he’s the natural option if Brazil require more width.

Only one other player offers a genuine alternative – central midfielder Hernanes. He’s an unusual player – not a deep-lying playmaker, not a number ten, but someone who sits in midfield and sprays the ball around nicely. He offers more guile and invention than Gustavo, Paulinho, Ramires or Fernandinho. The back-up centre-forward, Jo, has an average scoring record at club level, yet won the Copa Libertadores last year and has scored five times for Brazil in the last 12 months. He’s a Fred back-up, and will probably come on and provide fresh legs on around 80 minutes – it’s tough to see Scolari playing Fred and Jo together, even if Brazil are chasing games.

And that – how Brazil chase games – is the major question mark. Set up to play on the counter, there’s a risk Brazil will do exactly what they did four years ago, when they were excellent for four and a half games, suffered a nightmare 20 minutes against Holland, and were unable to turn the game around. At the Confederations Cup, Brazil were ahead at half-time and full-time five matches in a row. What if they concede the first goal against good opposition? Can they fight back?

They’ve often dropped off in second halves – this is because they’ve sat back when ahead, but are their fitness levels good enough to play for 90 (or 120) minutes)? Brazil’s fitness coach, Paulo Paixao, is thought to be a key figure in the backroom staff, and if Brazil will go all the way, he’ll need to keep these players fresh, as Scolari won’t change his side unless he’s forced to.


This is a very close-knit group away from the pitch, and a quick, modern, compact and organised side on it. There is unquestionably a dependence on Neymar for individual flair in the final third, but then there’s not a dependence upon individual flair itself.

That’s because Brazil will be able to grind out victories, and while Neymar is crucial, it might be the more hard-working players that shine, and it’s easy to imagine this side winning the competition with an unBrazilian goal – a Thiago Silva header from a set-piece, for instance. They should make the semi-finals, at least.

Quick guide

Coach: Felipe Scolari – 2002 World Cup winner, a father figure who puts great trust in his favoured players

Formation: 4-2-3-1 with an element of 4-2-1-3

Key player: Oscar – his movement allows others to shine

Strength: home support and great team spirit

Weakness: dependence upon Neymar for attacking magic

Key tactical question: how good are Brazil at defensive transitions – could the full-backs be caught out too high up the pitch?

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Cameroon: need to get the midfield balance right

June 9, 2014


With Cameroon, off-field issues are of greater concern than tactical factors.

They always have some kind of problem in terms of organisation, and it was no great great surprise when a row about bonusesthreatened to take over again. There have also been problems between Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song, Cameroon’s star players, in the past.

Following an extremely unconvincing qualification campaign, where Cameroon suffered from infighting, had three different coaches and only escaped elimination because Togo were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player, it was difficult to see any hope for them at this World Cup. A recent 2-2 draw with Germany suggests all is not lost, however.

Coach Volker Finke was once renowned as an attack-minded coach, but with Cameroon has found himself lacking in the creative midfield department, and therefore has tried to make his side organised, compact and disciplined, and depended upon quick attacking down the flanks. The major question is how he structures his midfield trio, to get the balance between defensive solidity and attacking potential.

The key player in this zone is Alexander Song, who has experienced a couple of poor seasons at Barcelona but is nevertheless capable of fine midfield performances. The problem, however, is that these days no-one’s entirely sure what of Song’s best position or role. At Arsenal he was initially a pure holding midfielder, then became part of a double pivot with license to move forward, and then ended up providing an amazing number of clever, lofted through-balls for Arsenal’s attackers. At Barcelona he was recruited because of his technical quality, but plays a limited role.


Possible Cameroon XI

It’s arguable that Song has been a victim of the same problem John Obi Mikel and Yaya Toure suffered from. At club level they’re seen as defensive-minded tacklers (Toure in his Barcelona guise), but at international level they’re charged with bringing more creativity to the table. In the warm-up against Germany, Song started as the deepest of the three midfielders, but then increasingly moved forward, both to press and to help attack, with Eyong Enoh covering for him. Those two are guaranteed to start, but there’s still a question about their position, and it’s not impossible Finke could even tilt the midfield triangle and play them as a double pivot, although there’s no obvious contender to play at the top of the triangle.

The final midfield slot is up for grabs. Stephane Mbia is an option, but is another hard worker and a physical presence who doesn’t offer much ability on the ball. Jean Makoun seems the best choice on paper but has barely been used, with the energetic Landry N’Guemo more likely to get playing time. It’s even arguably Song should start at the top of the midfield trio, although at least he’s given freedom to move forward from his deep position.


Cameroon’s area of strength is at centre-back, where the combination of Aurelian Chedjou and Nicolas N’Koulou seemed settled until they were torn apart in a 5-1 thrashing against Portugal in Match, so Schalke’s Joel Matip has been used in place of Chedjou, who has also been suffering from injury. Again, however, Matip would be another decent midfield option – he’s equally happy playing there – so this arguably weakens the side as a whole.

The full-backs attack well. Allan Nyom brings the ball forward purposefully, while left-sided Henri Bedemo is better at making off-the-ball runs before crossing.


Samuel Eto’o has often played a deep role for his national side, but in this 4-3-3 he plays upfront as the central striker, and no longer feels the need to drop back and help create chances, partly because he doesn’t have the mobility these days. Still quick over short distances and a lethal finisher, he remains a top-class striker.

On the flanks, Cameroon are likely to field two pacey wingers who cut inside and shoot. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting has scored twice in warm-up games to confirm his place in the side, although he doesn’t always appear the best team player. On the opposite side, Vincent Aboubakar had a great season with Lorient, is another good dribbler and can also dart into the box to become a second striker too.

Individually, the three forwards are all excellent. But, on and off the pitch, it’s all about how Cameroon work as a group.

Quick guide

Coach: Volker Finke - playing more defensively than he would like

Formation: It should be a 4-3-3

Key player: Song has to provide the creativity

Strength: Three dangerous forwards

Weakness: Lack of off-field cohesion

Key tactical question: Who completes the midfield trio?

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Mexico: talented squad, but highly unpredictable

June 9, 2014


No other country has such a frustratingly consistent record at recent World Cups. Mexico have been eliminated at the second round stage in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 – often after some promising performances in the group stage.

By now, they should be capable of pushing on and finally reaching the quarter-final stage. They were genuinely impressive at points in 2010, won the Gold Cup in 2011 with a brilliant 4-2 win over the USA in one of the best international finals in recent memory, then shocked Brazil the next year by winning the Olympic title.

However, there have been serious problems since then. World Cup qualification was a farce, with four different coaches taking charge of Mexico games in 2013, amongst various tales of player indiscipline. Miguel Herrera was appointed shortly before the play-off victory over New Zealand, triumphed with a squad of purely domestic-based players, and now has gradually brought European-based stars back into the side, although Carlos Vela remains in international exile.

For the third consecutive World Cup, Mexico will play a back three. In 2006 it was 3-4-1-2, in 2010 it was 3-4-3, and now it’s more like a 3-5-2. Mexico play an attacking game, attempting to command possession and throwing plenty of players forward, although it’s hard to believe there won’t be some defensive mistakes.

Uncertain backline

As in 2010, the key to the backline is Rafael Marquez. Captain for the fourth tournament in a row, a World Cup first, he understands the positional requirements of playing in this defence, covering for the two markers either side when needed, but also stepping up ahead of them to start passing moves from a deep-lying midfield role. When this works it’s brilliant to watch, but Marquez’s mobility has declined, and neither of the centre-backs are entirely comfortable covering the wide areas.


Probable Mexican XI

In particular, the right-sided centre-back Francisco Rodriguez looks clumsy on the ball, lacks pace, and doesn’t really suit a three-man defence in an attacking side – he’d be more at home in a back four, on the edge of his own box. Hector Moreno is a much better defender – more mobile, better positionally, good on the ball and left-sided, which helps the balance of the defence.

Therefore, it seems highly likely Mexico’s errors will come from the right of the defence, with the different abilities of the wing-backs a further reason to believe there’s an imbalance in the side. Paul Aguilar pootles up and down the line rather tentatively, while Miguel Layun motors forward with great attacking intent.

Whereas in 2010 Mexico played a front three and therefore had natural attacking width, now there’s more responsibility on the wing-backs to push high up the field.

Decent midfield

The midfield is also different from at previous World Cups, with one sole holding midfielder and two who push on. Jose Vazquez is a small, stocky holder who breaks up play, and the attacking qualities come from his two midfield colleagues.

Andres Guardado is a left-sided, energetic player who dribbles with the ball at great speed, but can lack end product, while Hector Herrera is a powerful and technically talented box-to-box midfielder, who will probably captain Mexico in future and is their best hope of being able to dominate matches here.

Quality upfront

Upfront, Herrera seems likely to leave out Javier Hernandez. The Manchester United poacher plays more of an all-round role with the Mexican side, dropping off the front into wide positions, but hasn’t appeared sharp in that position having been displaced upfront by the ruthless, clinical Oribe Peralta, who has a turn of speed and scored the crucial goals against Brazil in the Olympic final.

That means, somewhat pleasingly, Giovani dos Santos should start instead. While his club career stalled quite astonishingly having left Barcelona in 2008, he’s enjoyed a good campaign with Villarreal and more importantly, is a consistently brilliant ‘tournament’ footballer. Deep breath: he won individual awards at world U17 and U20 level, was named the best player at the Gold Cup in 2009, the second-best youngster at the actual World Cup in 2010, scored the sublime clinching goal in the 2011 Gold Cup, and then has looked lively at the 2011 Copa America, the victorious 2012 Olympics and the 2013 Confederations Cup.

It’s difficult to think of another player who has so consistently underwhelmed at club level while looking so dangerous for his international side, but that’s not an uncommon problem for Mexican players in Europe. Dos Santos’ main quality is his appreciation of space, always drifting laterally to collect the ball in wide areas, before dribbling directly towards goal. Against Croatia and Cameroon sides that lack protection for the defence, he could be a (belated) revelation.


Who knows? On paper this seems a good team, but Herrera was appointed relatively recently and it’s tough to know how effectively the players understand his gameplan. Marquez and Vazquez have huge responsibilities positionally, while Aguilar, Herrera, Guardado and Layun need to cover lots of ground. The front two, with Hernandez an option from the bench, should grab some goals.

The defensive section of the side will surely make errors, and therefore it’s tough to imagine Mexico finally reaching the quarter-final stage. The final group game against Croatia will probably decide whether Mexico go out in round one, or round two.

Quick guide

Coach: Miguel Hector Herrera – likes attacking football, and players he knows

Formation: 5-3-2 in defence, something like 3-1-4-2 in attack

Key player: Herrera can help dominate the midfield

Strength: A good left flank

Weakness: Likely to make defensive errors

Key tactical question: Can Dos Santos find space?

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yeah, new topic for each match day will be the best way. 

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