Game(s) on: Brazil tries to seal Group A; Mexico, Croatia eye knockout round
The Netherlands and Chile are already through. Now it’s time to decide who they’ll face. Kicking off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, Group A’s final two games will determine which of Brazil, Croatia, or Mexico face off against Group B’s top two in the World Cup’s knockout round.
Thanks to four points and a goal difference edge on Mexico, Brazil sit atop the group ahead of its match against already eliminated Cameroon. If the host nation takes all three points, only a lopsided win for El Tri will keep it from topping the group, and unless Mexico and Croatia play to a high-scoring draw, Brazil will have to lose by multiple goals to have a chance of going home.
Based on those scenarios, second place is the likely prize in Recife, where Mexico needs only a draw against Croatia to reach its sixth straight knockout round. Croatia, whose only loss was a controversial one to Brazil, sit in on three points, meaning a victory is a must if Niko Kovac’s team’s to advance to the knockout round.
Here are the lineups:
Cameroon: Itanjde; Mbia, N’koulou, Nyom, Bedimo; Matip, Enoh, N’Guémo; Moukandjo, Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting
Brazil: César; Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho; Oscar, Neymar, Hulk; Fred
Expectation: Brazil uses its game against the group’s weakest link to clinch first place.
One blogger’s prediction: An easy 2-0 for the hosts.
Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Modric, Pranjic; Perisic, Rakitic, Olic, Mandzukic
Mexico: Ochoa; Aguilar, Rodríguez, Marquez, Moreno, Layún; Vazquez, Herrera, Guardado; Dos Santos, Peralta
Expectation: There’s no clear favorite. Croatia’s talent, particularly in midfield, has drawn one set of admirers, while the resiliency Mexico’s leveraged while keeping two clean sheets has cultivated another.
One blogger’s prediction: 1-1, though if there’s one prediction I wish I didn’t have to make, it’s this one.