Hosts Brazil are the heavy favorites to win the whole tournament, but if results don’t go their way on Monday evening, the Selecao might not even make it to the knockout stages.
But with Cameroon looking awful in Brazil, advancing to the Round of 16 would seem like a formality for Brazil. But for a team looking to add a sixth star to its crest, squeaking through to the next round isn’t enough. Brazil will want to win, and win big, to make sure they finish on top of Group A
THE SCENARIOS: With a win or a tie against Cameroon, Brazil will secure themselves a spot in the next round. Simple enough. If they lose, it gets tricky. A loss would see the Selecao finish with four points, a total that Group A rivals Croatia could match with a draw against Mexico in the evening’s other game. At that point goal differential would come into play, with Mexico finishing tops.
ATTACK OFF TRACK: Brazil’s offense is immensely talented. But it also got completely stonewalled in its last outing. Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was brilliant in a 0-0 draw, and even in their first game of the tournament, the Brazilians had to rely on questionable refereeing and goalkeeping to come out with a 3-1 win over Croatia. The skeptics will be out in force if they stumble again.
LIONS ON THE PROWL: Cameroon’s results belie the quality that they have on their roster. Samuel Eto’o was once one of the best strikers in the world, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto might be the best attacking left back in the tournament so far. As miserable as Cameroon’s defense has looked, Brazil can’t get got out too far up the field, because the Indomitable Lions still have the capability of pouncing on space.
THAT DEFENSE, THOUGH: Looking at the results isn’t enough to understand how truly awful Cameroon’s defense has been. Mexico had two goals against the Lions called back for offside in their 1-0 win, calls that were so egregiously wrong that the linesman who made them was sent home after the game. Cameroon followed up that masterful performance with a 4-0 loss to Croatia, where centerback Alex Song for some reason decided to elbow an opposing player off the ball and in full view of the referee. Brazil haven’t played like Brazil, yet, but this Cameroonian defense might just be able to fix that.
THE STAR YOU KNOW: Neymar, forward, Brazil – This game is Brazil’s time to really strut their stuff, and who else to lead the way on that front than Neymar? With two goals already and several good looks against Mexico, expect the young forward to be lethal on Monday
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU: Benoit Assou-Ekotto, left back, Cameroon – The defensive lapses speak for themselves, but the Queens Park Rangers left back can be a handful going forward. Dani Alves, you’re on notice.