The 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be an unbelievable showcase of footballing talent. A lot of that talent resides in Group A and not just because of the number of top players on the host nation Brazil’s roster. Each team in Group A has at least one star that plays on one of the biggest teams in European club football. Brazil has Neymar, Cameroon has former Barcelona and current Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o, Mexico has Manchester United’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Croatia has recent Champions League winner Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. Of course all of these players will have an enormous impact on their respective teams, but each roster has a host of other talent that will not be as talked about in the media but will be crucial for their teams.
Brazil: No nation has as much pressure on it in this year’s World Cup as the host nation Brazil. A lot of that collective pressure, whether fair or not, is placed directly on the shoulders of their star player Barcelona forward Neymar. For Brazil to win the World Cup as their fans are hoping Neymar will have to play exceptionally, but others on the roster will have to step up as well. Two players who will have a tough task are the central defensive duo of Thiago Silva and David Luiz. Silva is one of the best if not the best central defenders in the world and will captain Brazil. He will need to lead a defensive line that has a lot of talent but likes to venture forward a little too often. In the midfield the talent is overflowing, but the job of dictating the games’ pace will fall to two Chelsea players in Oscar and Ramires. Oscar will be the driving creative and playmaking force trying to create chances for the forwards Neymar, Hulk and Fred. Ramires will be more workmanlike, trying to bust up the opponents attacks while also providing a bit of attacking flair. If Brazil does not advance to the knockout stages in this World Cup they are hosting it will be disastrous in fans’ eyes. Their talent is undeniable but what they lack is major tournament experience. To win this World Cup they will need to play as a team and not just a collection of individual stars.
Croatia: The eastern European nation has undeniable star power in midfielder Luka Modric and striker Mario Mandzukic. Both players ply their trade for two of Europe’s biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. They are not the only players to watch for in the World Cup for Croatia, some others include captain Darijo Srna, midfielder Ivan Rakitic and forward Nikica Jelavic. Captain Srna is a club legend in Ukraine for Shaktar Donetsk and will lead the back line that will have its hands full defending against the other attacking talent in Group A. Ivan Rakitic is a very creative midfielder who plays for Sevilla in Spain and is coming off an incredible season. Rakitic and Modric will be asked to control the pace and service the forwards ahead of them in Mandzukic and Jelavic. One big problem for Croatia will be the absence of Mandzukic due to suspension in the first match of the entire World Cup against Brazil. Croatia absolutely has the talent to advance to the knockout stage but these key players will have to execute and perform at their best.
Mexico: The North American nation will come into the World Cup on a bit of a down note after a very difficult qualifying campaign and a few losses in friendlies leading up to Brazil. Normally this is a very organized and effective team but over the last year they have not looked the part. Because most of the players for Mexico play in the less publicized Mexican league most of them are not big names but that does not mean there is a lack of talent. The most famous Mexican player is Manchester United striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, but it has been discussed in recent days that he may not even start for them. A lot of the pressure to carry this team will be placed on two Villarreal players Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Aquino. Dos Santos is only 25 but is one of Mexico’s most capped players with 76 appearances for his country. That experience will be invaluable for a team which is coming into the World Cup with little confidence. The team will also rely heavily on experienced player and Mexican legend Rafa Marquez. Even at 35 he will be called on to anchor their defense in one of the most attack minded groups in the competition.
Cameroon: The West African nation will probably get the least coverage of any team in Group A in the upcoming World Cup, but that does not mean they are lacking in talent. The face of their team is undoubtedly longtime striker and captain Samuel Eto’o, but he is not the only player who will go a long way in deciding Cameroon’s fate in Brazil. Two regulars in Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Nicolas N’Koulou, the latter being a rising star for French club Marseille, will bolster their defense. Cameroon’s midfield is probably its strongest portion of the roster with experienced players like Alexandre Song and Jean Makoun. A player that made major strides for his club this year and will be joining Makoun and Song in the midfield is Sevilla’s Stephane Mbia. Mbia is coming off of a Europa League winning season with Sevilla and will take that confidence into the World Cup. In attack, young rising star Vincent Aboubakar will join Eto’o. He has made a name for himself at only 22 in the French League playing for Lorient. Cameroon may not be the most talented team in Group A but they will give the other teams headaches with their experience and team play.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius