2014 World Cup Group A: Five questions

What will the tournament's opening games hold for Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon?

Brazilian national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. AFP
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Will the patriotic passion of 2013 be present?

With protests blowing up across Brazil last summer, the country’s national anthem took on special significance during the Confederations Cup. The Brazilian hymn lasted twice as long as other nations as sold-out crowds sang the second verse a cappella, and it galvanised the team: they scored in the opening 10 minutes in three of their five matches.

One-word answer: Yes.

Can Croatia’s form boys produce for their country?

Luka Modric was arguably the best player on the pitch in Real Madrid’s Uefa Champions League final success and Ivan Rakitic of Sevilla was the best player in the Primera Liga outside of Real, Barcelona and Atletico. If they can produce, Croatia can ­create. Striker Mario Mandzukic is suspended for the first game, though, so they will have to be even more inventive.

One-word answer: No.

Can Mexico maintain their second-round run?

The Mexicans have progressed to the round of 16 at each of their previous six tournaments, often against the odds. They will look at their Group A opponents and believe it is possible again. The warm temperatures will suit them better than their European counterparts and their pace will cause Cameroon problems.

One-word answer: Yes.

Can Cameroon return to Africa’s top seat?

When Cameroon became the first African team to reach the last eight in 1990, it was assumed they would build on the achievement. Instead, while Senegal and Ghana have duplicated the Indomitable Lions’ feat, Cameroon have withered. They haven’t progressed through their group for 24 years and desperately need to regain some African pride.

One-word answer: No.

Will the hosts handle the pressure?

Brazil won the Confederations Cup last summer, but it should not be forgotten they arrived at the tournament without expectations. Now they are overriding favourites. Any mention of the 1950 World Cup final is off limits in Scolari’s news conferences, so failing in front of their compatriots again is clearly on the camp’s collective mind.

One-word answer: Yes.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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