You guys. You guys! The World Cup starts today. After four years of waiting and planning and qualifying, we ease into the 2014 tournament with just a single game as hosts Brazil take on the always strong Croatia. And that means it is time to reveal the first of our predictions for this summer's big to do; welcome to our Group A predictions. Here's how the B&RU staff think things will go among Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Brazil are the prohibitive favorites in this group from just a talent standpoint, and that's before you factor in their home field advantage. The question in this group is whether El Tri does something with the gift Graham Zusi gave them on the last night of CONCACAF qualifying. I don't think they will (but I wouldn't be surprised if they make another run to the round of 16--feast or famine for our CONCACAF rivals). Look for Brazil to win the group going away, and for Croatia to finish second. Cameroon will throw a scare into a few teams along the way, but they will be too distracted by issues with their federation to move on.
Adam M Taylor
I've been on record for a while now as saying that Brazil will walk away with the tournament, and they'll start it in the group stage, taking all 9 points while only rarely getting into top gear. Second place will come down to Croatia and Mexico, and - struggles in qualifying notwithstanding - I give the edge to El Tri. They always get out of the group, and they finally seem to be coming together as a team. They have the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Croats, and I give the edge to the team that doesn't have to cross an ocean.
Brazil is on a mission and they will easily emerge from the group. On home turf hosting the World Cup, expectations are super duper high, and Neymar and the band doesn't disappoint. The breakout performance of the group will go to Luca Modric, who shows the world that he really is one of the best soccer players in the game and Croatia and the checkerboard jerseys live to see the knockout stage.
Brazil will win Group A, but don't be surprised if Mexico pulls off a draw against the hosts; El Tri has a great history of overachieving in that particular pairing. Cameroon's dispute with their federation couldn't have come at a worse time, so the group should come down to Mexico vs. Croatia on the 23rd. The Croats have more talent on paper, but "on paper" doesn't help in tropical Recife, where that match will be played. Brazil and Mexico advance.
Otherwise known as "whoever finishes second to Brazil," one would have to presume the Mexicans will be more acclimated to the weather than Croatia, and since Cameroon will likely bear the brunt of thrashings by the other teams, El Tri and Selecao Brasileira move on.
The two teams playing in today's opening match are the two favorites to get out of the group, of course. And like everyone else sane, I do think that Brazil should win this group; however, don't be too surprised if they struggle just a bit under the weight of the massive expectations that come with playing in their home country. Croatia should be the second best team on talent, so I'll take them moving on with Brazil.
Well, that's how we see Group A playing out. Let us know in the comments what you think will happen.