Reaching day 12 of the 2014 World Cup means we’re entering the most intense week of the competition, which includes 16 matches in a four day span. Group A will decide its qualifying teams as Cameroon, already out of the race, taking on Brazil, while Croatia and Mexico play at the same time. In group B things are simpler, and the only thing left to decide is who finishes first between the Netherlands and Chile, while Australia play Spain in a meaningless match.
Cameroon and Brazil will take center stage in Brasilia with a team like Cameroon that’s completely torn apart. Brazil still have an injury lingering above their heads with Hulk doubtful for the match. It’ll be interesting to see Scholari and his decisions; Does he keep playing the awful Paulinho in the lineup, and what does he do about the trio behind Fred in terms of how he uses them. Will it be Bernard or Willian that start for Hulk if he is indeed injured?
Cameroon have nothing to play for except try to ruin things for Brazil. Their performance against Croatia was embarrassing – both in terms of ability and in terms of behavior on the pitch. Unless they beat Brazil, which seems very unlikely considering they’re still waiting to score their first goal of the tournament, it’s going to be the round of 16 for Brazil.
Croatia and Mexico meet at the same time in Recife, with a bit more on the line. A draw works well for Mexico, and Mexico winning is good for Brazil. Croatia winning probably puts them along with Brazil in the next round. We might see Croatia taking a slightly more defensive approach at first against Mexico than they did against Cameroon, but we’re likely to see Sammir remain in the lineup.
Guillermo Ochoa stole the show in the previous game for Mexico, but in a match that might lead to them needing goals, they’re going to have to attack with a bit more players than what we saw from them in the draw against Brazil. Taking long range shots against a slow goalkeeper like Pletikosa might be a good idea to start with.
Chile and the Netherlands meet in Sao Paulo for a match that’s about taking the first place. If teams wanted to avoid Brazil they won’t be able to, because Group B plays the earlier matches (Politics, FIFA), which means we’re not going to see teams trying to lose on purpose. A draw works for the Dutch to finish first, a win for Chile puts them in the top spot.
Spain and Australia have their clash in Curitiba, in a match that means absolutely nothing. We’ll be seeing a lot of changes for the Spanish team in what might be a final performance for quite a few players and their head coach. Australia will be feeling that this is their chance of picking up some points in the tournament, which according to their ability should have ended a little bit differently.