Something to Cro about

  • By: Andy Schooler and David John
  • Last Updated: June 23 2014, 20:48 BST

We preview the final two games in World Cup Group A and expect Brazil and Croatia to reach the last 16.

Brazil: Can claim easy victory over Cameroon
Brazil: Can claim easy victory over Cameroon

Check out our match-by-match verdict below:

Cameroon v Brazil (Group A, Brasilia, 2100 BST)

The ante-post favourites have yet to light up their own tournament, needing the referee's help to edge past Croatia and then being held by Mexico.

It means they still have work to do to reach the last 16, although it is highly unlikely they will now miss out - the other game in the group would have to end in a draw and they would need to lose this one.

It's a combination hard to envisage, especially given their opposition in this final group match looks in disarray.

Already eliminated, Cameroon saw Alex Song sent off who a truly crazy elbow against Croatia last time out (he is now suspended for this one) and ended the match having a pop at each other.

Remember this is a side who delayed their arrival in Brazil while they argued over money. The impression they are giving off is that they can't wait to leave.

I expect Brazil to win comfortably, although it is worth mentioning the possibility that they will be able to control who they face in the last 16 - this group ends after Group B has been decided. Either Chile or Netherlands will top that one with the other going through as runners-up.

I can't really see that being much of a factor though given the current Group A situation and you'd have thought the most important thing for the hosts here will be to produce a convincing display akin to the ones they managed in last summer's Confederations Cup and send out a message that they are indeed the real deal.

It seems the perfect opportunity and, if they can make an early breakthrough, I can see them winning this at a canter.

For all the criticism that came their way after the Mexico game, it should be remembered they were the better team and only a fine goalkeeping display denied them victory.

Unfortunately, the prices show the bookies fully expect a comfortable win for the Selecao. They are only a shade of odds-against to win by three clear goals and 7/10 to win to nil - a bet that may still interest the big-hitters given Cameroon have failed to score so far.

For those seeking a bigger price, I feel the way to go could be to back an early goal.

Cameroon conceded after 11 minutes against Croatia and effectively let one in after 10 against Mexico - a bad decision by the linesman seeing it ruled out.

Brazil made fast starts in their Confederations Cup matches last season and Luiz Felipe Scolari will, I'm sure, be drilling it into his side how they performed then and the desire to replicate it.

An added bonus for those playing in this market is Brazil have looked a little shaky at the back in the early stages of games - Croatia netted against them after 11 minutes.

Verdict: Cameroon 0 Brazil 3 (AS)

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Time of first goal 0-10 minutes at 9/4.

Opta facts:

Cameroon won the last meeting involving these sides, running out 1-0 victors when Samuel Eto'o scored a late winner during the 2003 Confederations Cup. However, Brazil won their only World Cup meeting - 3-0 in 1994.

Cameroon have hit 30 shots in this World Cup but only three of them have been on target.

Cameroon have kept only one clean sheet in their last 18 World Cup games.

Brazil haven't failed to top their World Cup group since the last tournament in South America (Argentina 1978).

Croatia v Mexico (Group A, Recife, 2100 BST)

This one is set up nicely with the winner certain to go through and the loser almost certain to go out.

The draw will be good enough to put Mexico in the last 16 due to their goal difference advantage, but it's highly unlikely to be enough for Croatia, so the need for them to win the game is clear.

They've impressed so far, with 34-year-old Ivica Olic rolling back the years with some energetic surges down the left.

In midfield, there's top quality in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, while the importance of Mario Mandzukic to their forward line was highlighted when he returned from suspension to score twice in their demolition of Cameroon in the week.

It's easy to argue that had the Bayern Munich man played against Brazil in the opener, the result could well have been different.

Mexico will be no pushovers though and their solidity so far has seen them keep two clean sheets. They love to press and close down but it will be hard to do that for the full 90 minutes in the heat and humidity of Recife - the latter is expected to be above 80%.

The quality of Croatia's forward play is the key for me in this one and I am siding with them.

They produced plenty of attacking football and they will need to do the same here. Brazil showed Mexico will struggle to deny a good side chances and keeper Guillermo Ochoa won't bail them out every game.

Of course, Mexico will be capable of hitting Croatia on the break, especially if things are still tight late on - indeed this game looks a prime opportunity for in-play betting.

Still, in a tournament in which attacking verve has trumped defensive dourness, I am happy to back Croatia simply to win the match.

Verdict: Croatia 2 Mexico 0 (AS)

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Croatia to win at 11/8.

Opta facts:

Mexico have won only seven of their 30 World Cup games against European opposition.

Croatia's Mario Mandzukic has scored with both of his shots on target so far.

Croatia have never won their final group game at a World Cup (D1 L2).

Mexico haven't won their final group game at a World Cup since 1986 (on home soil).

  • Posted at 1810 BST on 22/06/2014.

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