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World Cup

  • June 13, 2014
  • • 17:00
  • • Arena das Dunas, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte
  • Referee: W. Roldán
  • • Attendance: 39216
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Mexico-Cameroon Preview: A start with no margin for error

Mexico-Cameroon Preview: A start with no margin for error

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The Group A underdogs face each other in their first match, both aware that a victory in Arena das Dunas is a must to have a real chance of progressing in the tournament

By Luis Herrera in Natal

Foes this Friday at Arena das Dunas, Mexico and Cameroon actually share a common path to Brazil 2014. Both seemed destined to watch the World Cup on television before their chances were revived thanks to circumstances outside their control.

With Brazil a clear favourite to win Group A and Croatia a strong candidate to take second spot in the group, El Tri and the Indomitable Lions know a victory in this first game is a must to have a real chance of going far in the tournament.

"I'm happy to be here, it's a dream come true, being in a World Cup," said coach Miguel Herrera.

"We are all very close, very united, thinking only of one thing: making history and advancing where other Mexican teams couldn't.

After a disastrous 2013 in which four different managers were in charge of the team, Mexico head to their opener with a starting 11 that includes only four players from the team that started one year ago in the Confederations Cup.

With just over half a year to prepare for Brazil, coach Herrera has installed a 5-3-2 system that has its main strength in its defence, where 35-year old veteran Rafael Marquez has came back to provide the the leadership the team lacked during its awful qualifying phase. In attack, Olympic gold medal heroes Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos are two terrific talents, while Manchester United’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez will wait for an opportunity to make his trademark impact coming from the bench.

"The competition is very close and the 11 that started against Portugal left me very confident in their attacking efforts; there is very good chemistry between Oribe and Gio, that’s why we chose to start with them," Herrera said at his pre-match press conference.

On the other hand, the losses of likely starters Juan Carlos Medina and Luis Montes to injuries in the weeks leading to this summer's tournament forced Herrera to scramble to find a new midfield; now formed by Bayer Leverkusen’s Andres Guardado, Porto’s Hector Herrera and the inexperienced Jose Juan Vazquez, a trio that actually worked quite well in their first game together last week against Portugal.

One player who is confirmed in the starting line-up is goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who has beaten off competition from Jesus Corona and Alfredo Tavalera to make the first XI.

"It was a very difficult decision, very tough to make, it was discussed with the rest of my staff, we analyzed the work of the three and opted for Ochoa," said Herrera. "We spoke with the three of them and what makes us proud is the support that Corona and Talavera gave Memo."

German coach Volker Finke has had a bit more time to work with Cameroon – he was appointed in May 2013 – opting for a very compact and organized 4-3-3 formation, yet lacking creativity in midfield at times. Like their rivals, Cameroon are likely to repeat the starting 11 of their last friendly, a 2-2 draw against Germany.

Veteran captain Samuel Eto’o is still the focal point of the attack, but is now playing as a true striker, and is not able to help as much in the creation of chances as in the past. That now is wingers Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Benjamin Moukandjo's jobs, who get constant help from their fullbacks.

Marseille’s Nicolas N’Koulou and Schalke’s Joel Matip are two very solid centre-backs, while Konyaspor’s keeper Charles Itandje has struggled to find consistency on club level, but in recent times has showed impressive form with his national team.

LIKELY STARTING XIs:

MEXICO: Ochoa; Aguilar, Rodriguez, Marquez, Moreno, Layun; Herrera, Vazquez, Guardado; Dos Santos, Peralta

CAMEROON: Itandje; Djeugoue, Matip, Nkoulou, Bedimo; Enoh, Song, M'bia; Moukandjo, Eto'o, Choupo-Moting


Related

Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Players to Watch
Francisco Guillermo Ochoa
Francisco Guillermo Ochoa
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 1
Games Goals YC RC
4 0 0 0
Ajaccio’s goalkeeper will finally make his World Cup debut after spending Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 on the bench. Coach Miguel Herrera admitted his toughest decision for the starting 11 was the goalkeeper, one of the strengths of El Tri, but Ochoa’s great performances with the modest French team gave him the nod over Olympic gold medal winner Jesus Corona. If he can replicate his Ligue 1 form, opposition strikers will definitely have a very tough day; if he fails, it could be a first and a last for the 28-year old keeper.
Alex Song
Alex Song
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 4
Games Goals YC RC
2 0 0 1
The big name of the team played for Chelsea last season and goes by the name Samuel Eto’o, but the true key is Barcelona midfielder Song; although his club usually limits him to defensive duties, he can actually play any role in the centre of the field. If he can take advantage of the absences and lack of cohesion in Mexico’s midfield, that will add another dimension to Cameroon’s attack, which is at times too dependent on their quickness on the flanks.
Prediction
Somehow, Mexico always manage to overcome their pre-World Cup struggles and show their best football in the tournament, as their five appearances in the last 16 of the past five editions – a feat only matched by Brazil and Germany – can testify. On the other side, Cameroon’s best days are now a long-distant memory and off-field issues have affected the team once again - with their arrival in Brazil delayed due to an financial dispute.
Editor's Prediction
Mexico 2

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