It was with high anticipation that the world watched to see who their country would face in the World Cup group stages next year. Fans the world over were working out potential "Group of Deaths" and analysing which opponents would prove less of a challenge.
As host nation, Brazil were automatically seeded and placed in Group A, where they would play the opening match of the tournament. Brazilians waited with bated breath as their opponents were announced. They would draw Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in a group which should not prove too difficult for the five-time winners.
In the following, the teams will be analysed and the potential positions of the respective nations will be predicted.
Whilst Cameroon boasts one of the star names of the 21st century in Samuel Eto'o, they surely cannot be considered as a real threat in Group A. Their qualifying campaign was fairly straightforward and they will count themselves lucky to have avoided any majorly difficult tests in the run up to Brazil.
Their qualifying group consisted of Libya, Congo and Togo. They came first with 13 points after losing only one game. This loss included three of the five goals against them showing that - albeit against weak opposition - their defence can be pretty mean as in the other five games, only two goals were shipped.
Their problems lie elsewhere. Specifically, up front. Cameroon cannot score and won many of their games by a single goal. The irony is that their, arguably, best player is a striker. However, the glory days of Samuel Eto'o are behind him and he showed that by scoring a meagre two goals in qualifying. The first time Cameroon pulled their scoring boots on was in the second leg against Tunisia when they won 4-1 after an unconvincing 0-0 in the first leg.
Cameroon will take anything they can get in Brazil but expect them to be eliminated in the first round.
Croatia's problems have started already. After coming second in their group and clinching a play-off spot, they came up against the surprise package of European qualifying: Iceland. The first game was a dull affair and the resilient Icelandic defence held firm to confirm a goalless first leg. The second leg proved to be the making, and the downfall, of the Croatian team.
After Mario Mandzukic had put them ahead after 27 minutes, he was shown a straight red card for a horrible studs up challenge. The red card warranted a ban for the first group stage game against Brazil, however, FIFA is considering an extension of the ban which could see him miss two games, if not the whole first round. This is a major blow for coach Nico Kovac but it was not all he had to reckon with that night.
After Srna's goal put them 2-0 up, the encounter was decided and Croatian fans and players celebrated their safe passage to the World Cup after the game. Unfortunately, Joe Simunic took it too far and proceeded to stir up the crowd with racist slurs. This cost him a hefty fine and a possible ban from FIFA.
Croatia only conceded nine goals in qualifying and this should be commended, however, their lack of goals will come back to haunt them. Much like Cameroon, they have a star striker who failed to shine regularly. Now, come June, Mandzukic might not have the chance to shine at all.
Mexico continues the theme of the group showing that, whilst they can keep the ball out, they cannot put it in at the other end. After the preliminary qualification group including Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guyana was successfully dealt with with an impressive 18 points - ten ahead of the nearest competitor - it turned into a bit of a struggle.
With star striker Hernandez not scoring regularly it was the selfish defence which kept Mexico in it. A fourth place finish behind the likes of Honduras and Costa Rica left many Mexicans disappointed and nervous with a play-off against New Zealand to await. Luckily for them, Mexico remembered how to score goals in the two game play-off and blew the All Whites away with nine strikes.
Mexico are ranked 20th in the world and will hope to move up a few places with qualification to the last 16 a priority. Miguel Herrera will be relying on Manchester United front man "Chicharito" for goals and will hope that Oribe Peralta - who had ten goals in eleven games - can keep his good form going.
The runner-up in Group A faces the winner in Group B, which would leave Mexico with a possible chance to face Spain or the Netherlands in the next round. Although hardly a congratulatory gift, Mexico may fancy their chance of springing a surprise.
As hosts Brazil were automatically qualified for the World Cup. Due to this, they spent the last couple of years playing friendlies with the only competitive action coming in their successful Confederations Cup campaign in 2013.
It is this success, the influx of young Brazilian talent and the huge enthusiasm the team entails that causes them to be among the favourites for the prize in 2014. Scolari has created a passion amongst the squad that translates onto the pitch and creates a willingness to work for the team.
Brazil have a strong central-defensive partnership with Luiz and Silva but can get caught out when Marcelo and Alves get forward without cover. They rely heavily on the attacking trio of Neymar, Oscar and Hulk and although players like Fred and Jo have started netting goals for the Selecao, they are not of the quality that countries like Argentina or Uruguay have at their disposal. Furthermore, Scolari will be hoping that number one 'keeper Julio Cesar can get a move to a stronger league in the January transfer window as playing for QPR in the Championship will hinder his chances of performing to the best of his abilities come June.
The side does have their weaknesses but their quality players and the passion and fervour from the home support will carry them up and onwards. They will have a fairly easy ride in the group stages but will face tougher competition in the last 16.
A nation's hope and happiness rests on the team and hopefully this will act as a motivation rather than an impossible weight on their shoulders.
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