According to FIFA, the two team’s have only played one friendly way back in 1993, which Mexico won (1-0). With the lack of experience and knowledge of playing one another, both team’s will be using their friendlies with similar opponents in order to make final adjustments leading up to the game. Cameroon’s results in this years friendlies have varied immensely from game to game. They started the year losing (1-5) against Portugal, but were tied (1-1) at halftime before both teams made a large number of substitution. A lackluster win of (2-0) against FYR Macedonia and a worrying loss against Paraguay (1-2) showed signs of a team that struggled defensively. Any belief that Cameroon would be an easy win for Mexico was soon eradicated after they went head to head against Germany and managed a draw of (2-2). Questions over the organization of the backline still loomed, but it was evident by the numerous scoring opportunities that Cameroon’s attack is strong enough to create goals against any opponent.
The Indomitable Lions play a 4-3-3 formation that relies heavily on the ability of their midfield and forwards to create an attacking opportunity from within their own half into the opponents in a short period of time. Their key players in the center of the field are La Liga pair Alex Song and Stephane Mbia who will attempt to withdraw as much pressure from opponents and transition into offense with their passing abilities. Samuel Eto’o, who is coming off a successful season with Chelsea, will lead the charge up top, along with two other forwards, in hopes that their speed and link up play will break down defenses.
Since both teams will be going into this match knowing they have to gain a result, I expect this to be Mexico’s most open game of the three. It will be very similar to Mexico’s friendly against Nigeria, in which both team had clear opportunities and either could have stolen the game had they put the ball behind the goal. Cameroon’s formation of 4-3-3 will allow Herrera’s defensive wingers to push forward more than usual and hopefully get either a cross in or cut in the center of the field. The underlying threat is that should these wingers lose possession while moving forward, it leaves a very slow Mexico backline to defend a counter attack against Cameroon’s quick offense. El Tri will be allowed to play with the ball and keep possession while Cameroon waits to pounce on a mistake. If Mexico manages to get in behind Alex Song consistently, they will surely be able to break down Cameroon’s unorganized defense.
These two teams have cross paths on a number of occasions with the most recent being in the 2013 Confederations Cup group stage which Brazil won (2-0). However, since the 21st century Mexico has been one of Brazil’s Achilles heel and in eleven FIFA matches played between them, have been able to take away a surprising five victories, two draws, and four defeats. This excludes the 2012 Olympic Gold Final in London that saw Brazil once again being kept from winning the only international trophy not in their collection. The gold medal Mexico team defeated (2-1) a young Brazilian squad that will probably make up a large number of the players in the line up come June 17.
This Brazilian squad has come under fire for their European style of playing instead of the classic Joga Bonito of previous teams. But after comfortably winning the Confederations Cup in 2013 there is little doubt that this team is a clear favorite to win with or without the advantage of playing at home. Brazil also plays a 4-3-3 with the backbone being Thiago Silva, Oscar, and Neymar. Their preferred method of attack is through the middle either from Neymar cutting in from the wing or quick give and go passes until finally create a scoring opportunity.
If there will be a test of Mexico’s defensive organization in the 5-3-2 formation, it will be against Brazil. Mexico’s best hope of salvaging either a draw or victory will depend on their ability to clog up the middle and force Brazil’s wingers Marcelo and Dani Alves to push up and send in crosses. Brazil hold no real height advantages over Mexico and are much less dangerous in the air than on the ground. In terms of attacking, Mexico can hope for either a counter or a shot from mid range coming from periods of possession.
Mexico has faced Croatia on three separate occasions. They lost both friendlies in 1992 and 1999 by an aggregate score of (1-5) but managed a (1-0) victory in the 2002 World Cup with a penalty converted by Blanco separating the two.
It’s difficult to draw many conclusions from Croatia’s friendlies this year considering they did not field a full strength squad in the (2-1) victory against Mali and made various substitutions in the (2-2) draw with Switzerland. They play a traditional 4-4-2 formation but for all the talent they hold in the midfield with Modric, Rakitic, and the young Internazionale play maker Kovacic, they surprisingly tend to bunker down and allow their opponents to control the center of the pitch. Croatia is a team that does only need a few chances in the games considering their dual threat of Olic and Mandzukic is enviable by even the best of teams.
How Mexico’s final battle in the group stage plays out will largely depend on the results from both squads previous two games. If Croatia has the upper hand in either points or goal difference, I would expect them to build an impenetrable wall to frustrate the Mexicans and look to score on counter attacks or set pieces. However, should Mexico find itself in a favorable position going into the game then Croatia would most likely switch to a 4-3-3 which would open up space for Mexico’s attack. Unless either of these two manage to get a win against Brazil, there’s very few scenarios that would make the points up for grab in the match irrelevant. To the victor go the spoils of moving on most likely.