Group A, Match 2
The day after the glamorous curtain-raiser in Sao Paulo, the other two sides – who the bookies will tell you are going to finish third and fourth in Group A – duke it out less glamorously over in Natal.
Neither side looks a patch on previous fine vintages. Mexico only managed fourth place in the soft CONCACAF group in qualifying – their worst placing ever in a table they usually top with pride – and at times resembled a shambolic shadow of their former selves. It's too early to assess how well new boss Miguel Herrera has turned things around, but a more attacking system with wing-backs is certainly an improvement.
Their worry is that a creaking, pace-starved defence may crumple against more physical sides, and Cameroon certainly have strength in their locker. But the Indomitable Lions also had a lacklustre qualifying campaign, and indeed only made it to Brazil thanks to Togo fielding an ineligible player, handing them a 3-0 win they hadn’t earned.
Cameroon’s defence is solid however, and keeper Charles Itandje – not fondly remembered by Liverpool fans – is in smashing form. Mexico do have some talented, technical forwards, so this looks likely to go one of two ways: a dire goalless affair between two teams unable to find form, or a marvellously entertaining goalfest prompted by numerous comedy errors from both sides. Begone, football purists: we know which one we’d prefer.
What the local media say
“There will be a dogfight to secure the second qualifying place for the last 16, with little between any of them. Cameroon arrive in Brazil late after a row with their federation over bonuses… they look unlikely to reach the heights of 1990” - Cameroon Online
Key battle: Oribe Peralta vs Charles Itandje
Cameroon’s keeper was their standout player on the road to Brazil, keeping his side in numerous matches: without him, they’d have been miles from qualifying. More heroics will be needed if they’re going to escape Group A, and Peralta is the man he’ll need to repel: the prolific America Club front-man has bagged 10 goals in his last 10 El Tri outings.
Facts and figures
- Mexico have lost more games than any other team at World Cup finals (24).
- Samuel Eto'o has been directly involved in Cameroon's last 4 World Cup goals (3 goals, 1 assist).
- Cameroon have only won 1 of their last 13 World Cup games (1-0 v Saudi Arabia in 2002), drawing 4 and losing 8.
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