Mexico v Cameroon preview – match live on ITV1 from 4pm
Knowing that Brazil and Croatia lie in wait, there will be enormous pressure on both Mexico and Cameroon to secure three points from their Group A clash at the Estadio das Dunas on Friday.
Neither side has enjoyed an ideal preparation for the World Cup. Mexico qualified by the skin of their teeth, while the Lions initially refused to board the plane for Brazil due to a dispute over bonus payments with the Cameroon Football Federation.
Defeat for either side in this match will most likely seal their fate in the tournament – there is no margin for error in Group A. But, on the other hand, a victory for either El Tri or Cameroon – ultimately, a draw would probably be of no real benefit either way – and there will be hope.
The Mexicans are favourites across the board, with Ladbrokes at a top-priced 13/10, while the West Africans can be backed at 14/5 with BetVictor. That’s looks a fair assessment on balance, but I wouldn’t rush to back either side at those odds.
Miguel Herrera’s squad suffered a double blow in the run-up to the tournament when midfielders Juan Carlos Medina and Luis Montes were both ruled out through injury. They are key pivots in El Tri’s 5-3-2 formation so papering over the cracks won’t be easy for Herrera.
Cameroon, meanwhile, will largely rely on Barcelona’s Alex Song in the middle of the park, with Samuel Eto’o expected to lead the line up front. Subsequent to reaching the quarter-finals at the 1990 World Cup, the Lions have generally gone out with a whimper in this tournament.
From a betting perspective, it’s hard to approach this game with a great deal of confidence. The draw is half-tempting at 28/13 with 888sport, but if Mexico do get it together they really should edge it. The tentative advice, therefore, is a small bet on Oribe Peralta at 5/1 in the first goalscorer market with Ladbrokes.
Chile v Australia preview – match live on ITV1 from 10.35pm
You have to feel for the Socceroos – they’ve rather been thrown to the lions in World Cup Group B. They could be in for a mauling in their opening match against Chile on Friday. And then, in their next two games, they will face 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands.
Chile, along with Belgium and Colombia, are many peoples idea of the tournament ‘dark horses’. They certainly impress with their free-flowing, attack-orientated football, and while they are suspect at the back, it’s hard to envisage Australia being able to capitalise by punishing them on the counter.
The Aussies were workmanlike at best during their qualification campaign, and confidence within the squad will hardly be at an all-time high following a pair of 6-0 defeats in friendlies against Brazil and France in the build-up to this tournament.
Despite the absence of midfield maestro Arturo Vidal, who aggravated a knee injury in Chile’s recent friendly against Northern Island, Jorge Sampaoli’s men should run out very comfortable winners.
Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez, who scored 19 times and weighed in with 10 assists in La Liga this season, will terrorise the leaky Australian defence with his lightning-fast pace. He’s surprisingly good value at 4/3 in the anytime goalscorer market with 888sport, which is worthy of a decent wager.