06 December 2013
Group A: Brazil (10), Cameroon (51), Croatia (16), Mexico (20)
Will probably not be the proverbial stroll-in-the-park for hosts and tournament favourites Brazil, as there are no pushovers in World Cup football anymore; but qualification for the next round still ought to be reasonably straightforward. History weighs both for and against Brazil winning the 2014 World Cup. On the one hand, all World Cups held in South America were won by South American teams. On the other hand, the first time Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950, when they were also overwhelming favourites, they were pipped to the title by neighbours and continental rivals Uruguay.
Croatia, which for a small country has had remarkable success in the World Cup, ought to accompany Brazil into the next round. Mexico’s lofty FIFA ranking is shown up as a farce by the travails of World Cup qualifying, in which they had to sneak in through the back door by way of an intercontinental play-off against Oceania winners New Zealand.