For its second straight World Cup, Mexico has been selected to be a member of Group A, which El Tri will share with Brazil, Croatia, and Cameroon. Mexico was handed a difficult group, given that Brazil is part of it, yet, qualifying to the Round of 16 should be more than feasible.
Mexico will play its three matches in three different cities: Natal, Fortaleza and Recife. Fortunately, all three cities are located in the northern part of Brazil, thus, travel will not be as difficult as other teams will expect in the World Cup.
Mexico will play its first World Cup game against Cameroon on June 13, 2014 at the Arena das Dunas in Natal. El Tri’s second match will be against the host nation, Brazil, on June 17, 2014 at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza. Mexico will finish group play against Croatia on June 23, 2014, at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife.
It is a near certainty that Brazil will qualify to the Round of 16, given that the host nation is one of the favorites to win the World Cup. Thus, Mexico will be forced to play two perfect games against Cameroon and Croatia, given that the match against Brazil will likely end in a loss (unless Miguel Herrera can pull off a miracle).
Based off the FIFA World Ranking, it appears Mexico has a decent shot at moving past the group stage. Brazil is ranked #10, Croatia #16, Mexico #20 and Cameroon #51. Of course, the rankings will have little influence in the matches, it will all come down to the team’s form.
Group A – World Cup Qualifying
Cameroon had a fairly easy ride into the World Cup. First, they won an accessible group they shared with Libya, Congo and Togo. Cameroon then sealed its World Cup spot by defeating Tunisia 4-1 (aggregate) in the African playoff. A solid African side, Cameroon will count with the experience of aging striker Samuel Eto’o.
Croatia qualified to the World Cup via the European playoff, after it failed to win Group A of the UEFA region. Croatia finished its group play with just 17 points from 10 matches, more than 9 points behind the group winner, Belgium. Croatia was handed a very easy playoff rival, Iceland, which it went on to defeat 2-0 on aggregate (after tying 0-0 in Iceland). Overall, Croatia’s qualifying campaign was mediocre, although they do count with several experienced and talented players.
Mexico, of course, had one of its worst qualifying campaigns in its history. After finishing in 4th place of the CONCACAF region, thanks in big part to some late game heroics from the USA, Mexico qualified to the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. After some changes in the national team, which included bringing in a new coach and a new set of players, Mexico was able to crush New Zealand 9-3.
As the host nation, Brazil qualified automatically to the World Cup. Brazil is expected to make a deep run in the tournament, and is one of the teams predicted to win it all.
Mexico was handed a tough, yet not impossible group. It could certainly have gone worse for El Tri, just take a look at the USA’s group. However, Miguel Herrera has plenty of work to do during the next six months. If Mexico plays anywhere near as bad as it did in the CONCACAF qualifiers, El Tri will have an awful time in Brazil.