The second day of the World Cup features the first full slate of matches. The Group A clash between Mexico and Cameroon will start early. Group B kicks off with all four teams in action.
Match: Mexico vs. Cameroon in Natal
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Mexico didn’t play an African team in friendlies. They failed to score in their last two friendlies against Bosnia and Portugal. Cameroon didn’t play a CONCACAF team in friendlies. Notable results from their pre-tournament games include a 2-1 loss to Paraguay and 2-2 draw with Germany.
What to watch for: Mexico knows this is an important match if they want to make it out of their group. Mexico should beat Cameroon but they have struggled in the last 15 months to play as a team. The big news in the Mexico side is that Javier Hernandez will probably be left out of the starting lineup. The in-form Oribe Peralta will get the nod up front for El Tri. Giovani dos Santos has always been built as Mexico’s next star but hasn’t met expectations. He will need to deliver. Cameroon is led by the experienced Samuel Eto’o. He is a big striker who can give Mexico’s defense trouble.
Players to watch: Mexico’s Andres Guardado has the ability to create chances or score a long distance goal. The midfielder will be key in the group stage. Alex Song is Cameroon’s most important player. The Barcelona midfielder will have offensive and defensive responsibilities.
Prediction: Mexico 1 (Peralta), Cameroon 1 (Eto’o)
I think Mexico will start tight and Eto’o will make them pay with a first half goal. Mexico will settle in and dominate the second half. Peralta will draw them level but they will only earn a point.
Match: Spain vs. Netherlands in Salvador
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Spain didn’t play a top European team in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. They did defeat Italy 1-0 on March 5. The Netherlands also played a top European team on March 5 when they fell to France 2-0.
What to watch for: It doesn’t get much better than this for the second day of the tournament. A rematch of the 2010 World Cup final in the group stage is great for neutral fans. There are a lot of familiar faces from that match where the Spanish won their first World Cup through an extra time goal by Andres Iniesta. Netherlands have a dangerous attacking trio of Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. The three have great individual skill but they crumbled at Euro 2012. Will they be a able to come together and have chemistry in a difficult group? Spain has one of the deepest and most talented rosters at the World Cup. They have many options at multiple positions so it will be interesting to see who is in the starting 11.
Players to watch: For the Netherlands to make it out of this group, players in the midfield will need to have strong matches. Nigel de Jong almost kicked his way off the pitch against Spain in 2010. He is an experienced player who will need to play well as a holding midfielder. Spain’s left back Jordi Alba made a great impression at Euro 2012. He is an attack-minded player that could give the Dutch back line trouble with his crosses.
Prediction: Spain 2 (Iniesta, Costa), Netherlands 1 (Robben)
It’s hard to predict the goal scorers because there are question marks on who will start for Spain. Either David Silva or Pedro will start out wide in an attacking role. I can see one of those two players scoring depending on who starts. I’ll say Iniesta and Diego Costa score two first half goals. Arjen Robben will cut the lead in half but it will be too late for a Dutch comeback.
Match: Chile vs. Australia in Cuiaba
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Chile didn’t play a similar opponent in their two friendlies against Egypt and Northern Ireland. They hosted both games against two countries who missed the World Cup. Australia didn’t play a South American country before the World Cup but did play a friendly in Brazil against Croatia.
What to watch for: With Spain and Netherlands waiting, Chile knows they need to win this match and think about helping their goal differential at the same time. Chile has an attacking team that is highlighted by Alexis Sanchez. The concern for the Chileans is the health of Arturo Vidal. The Juventus midfielder is one of the best all around players at his position but is battling a knee injury. Chile is fortunate they are playing Australia in the first match because they can defeat the Socceroos without Vidal. Australia had a difficult draw in 2010 with Germany, Ghana and Serbia. This time they got another terrible draw in Group B. Tim Cahill is the most well-known name for Australia, who are becoming World Cup regulars.
Players to watch: If Vidal can’t play, someone is going to have to step up and support Alexis Sanchez. Eduardo Vargas will have the chance to be a dynamic player if he is given the start. Cahill is Australia’s best goal scoring threat and will need to make the most of his chances.
Prediction: Chile 3 (Sanchez (2), Vargas), Australia 0
Australia lost 4-0 in the 2010 opener to Germany. I think the combination of Sanchez and Vargas will give trouble to Australia’s defense all night with Sanchez recording a brace.