Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Cameroon v Brazil – watch live on ITV1 at 9pm
Cameroon carry the nickname the ‘Indomitable Lions’, but in reality they’ve been more akin to yielding pussycats in their two 2014 World Cup games.
Volker Finker’s men have already been effectively eliminated from the tournament, having been beaten 1-0 and 4-0 by Mexico and Croatia respectively.
Against the Croats, Cameroon imploded. Alex Song was sent off and teammates Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo had an altercation towards the end of the game. It was all quite unsavoury.
It’s ironic, really. This is the same group of players that initially refused to board the plane to Brazil due to a dispute over bonus payments. In the end, the Cameroon Football Federation had to take out a loan to meet their demands. Honestly.
The squad should, quite frankly, be ashamed of themselves. And if the agreed bonuses were performance-related, then they will surely be looking at a minus figure, as they’ve given a proud nation nothing to be proud of in South America.
On Monday the Cameroon players are likely to get the hiding (in footballing terms, of course) that befits their petulance and greed when they square up against host nation Brazil in the capital, Brasilia.
Group A was expected to be a walk in the park for Brazil. However, it’s been anything but. And let’s be honest, the Selecao were fortuitous winners against Croatia on the opening match of the tournament prior to being held to a draw by Mexico.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side is rich in talent, no doubt. But they lack the potency they possessed in 2002 when winning the World Cup for a record fifth time. There’s too much pressure on Neymar as a both a source of creativity and goals.
However, when push comes to shove they should have far too much firepower for a Cameroon side devoid of cohesion. After all, with Mexico level on points and Croatia just one behind but with a superior goal difference, Brazil actually need a result on Monday night.
Cameroon v Brazil betting advice
Cameroon were lucky to technically concede just once against Mexico – El Tri had two perfectly good goals bizarrely disallowed – and Croatia could have put more than four past them had they been so inclined.
The 2014 World Cup didn’t start well for the Lions, and the ending won’t be any better. I reckon this could end up in cricket score territory and, at a tasty 14/5 with BetVictor, the Samba Boys -3 in the handicap market is the way to go.
Tip: Brazil -3 in the handicap betting – 14/5 (BetVictor)
Croatia v Mexico – watch live on ITV4 at 9pm
In contrast to the Cameroon-Brazil fixture, the other Group A match on Monday between Croatia and Mexico in Recife is difficult to call. Only a victory will do for Niko Kovac’s men, whereas a draw would be enough to secure El Tri’s place in the last 16. There’s everything to play for.
The Vatreni will be full of confidence after thrashing Cameroon on Wednesday. They were ahead after just 11 minutes through Ivica Olić, while Ivan Perišić scored early in the second half and Mario Mandžukić struck twice to seal an impressive 4-0 verdict for the Fiery Ones.
That victory went some way towards erasing the memory of their defeat against Brazil in the opening match of the tournament. It was 1-1 and Croatia were very much in the game when the referee awarded the Selecao a ridiculously soft penalty in the seventy-first minute. That penalty, which Neymar duly converted, altered the trajectory of the game. The Croats were arguably unlucky.
However, the sense of injustice they felt that night in São Paulo will undoubtedly resurface if they fail to secure three points against the Mexicans, which will be easier said than done. Indeed, Miguel Herrera’s charges are one of just two sides that have yet to concede in the finals and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off several fine saves against Brazil last week.
If Herrera decides to send his men out to play for a 0-0 draw, Croatia will have their work cut out. El Tri are very difficult to break down – they’re defensively dogged and very organised – and they also possess players with the requisite pace to hurt opponents on the counter. Kovac will need to ensure that his defence keeps tabs on the likes of Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta.
Still, Mexico have won just seven of their previous 30 clashes against European opposition and the Croatians are favourites across the board in the match result market. The 13/8 on offer with BetVictor the best price available at the time of writing; the same firm goes 12/5 the draw, while you can get 2/1 about El Tri coming out on top with Betfred.
Croatia v Mexico betting advice
With Brazil almost certain to dispense with Cameroon, one of these sides will be going home after this match. In many ways that’s a shame because both Croatia and Mexico have acquitted themselves with great credit and neither would look out of place in the last 16.
Much will depend on the tactical approach Herrera chooses to adopt. Personally, I doubt that he will be able to resist the urge to set his side up to nullify the Croatians and play for a draw. If that is the case, it will not only detract from this decider as a spectacle, but it could also prove counter-productive.
Indeed, the Fiery Ones have looked very sharp in Brazil so far, and if the Mexicans sit deep, allowing them to dictate the tempo and get into a rhythm, I’m pretty sure that Kovac’s industrious players will eventually unlock the El Tri backline. I doubt there will be much in it and I’m not expecting many goals, but I reckon Croatia will edge it.
The 13/8 about the Vatreni in the straight match result market is tempting, but a more appealing option from a value point of view is Draw/Croatia in the half time/full time market at a standout 21/4 with 888sport. The rationale behind this is, quite simply, that Mexico will probably endeavour to shut the European outfit out and hold on for a draw, but as the game progresses Croatia’s cutting edge will enable them to eventually break the Mexicans down, with a 1-0 or 2-0 win anticipated.
Tip: Draw/Croatia in the half time/full time market – 21/4 (888sport)