Brazil face Cameroon at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Monday, June 23, with the hosts looking for a win in order to not only qualify for the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup 2014 but also finish top of their group.
Cameroon are already out of the running for a berth in the second round of world football’s showpiece event after failing to win either of their two matches in Group A so far. Brazil won their opener 3-1 against Croatia before being held by Mexico in a goalless, yet entertaining draw. The hosts lead the group on goal difference.
Brazil need to win in order to be sure of qualification to the next stage with either the Dutch or Chile waiting for them in the next round. Although the chances of Brazil exiting from the group stage is bleak, a loss here could open the doors of a shock and early exit from the competition, if Croatia can hold Mexico to a draw.
While Brazil won with a convincing score line in their opening match against Croatia, it was not really a fair representation as to what transpired in those 90 minutes. Brazil recovered well in that game from an early own goal that they conceded to win via goals from Neymar in the first half and a controversial penalty that the number 10 converted in the 70th minute. The Croats were denied some similar calls by the referee and could have at least had a draw had decisions gone their way.
A well-organized Mexico side asked some questions of Brazil in their second group match which was dominated by the hosts. However, a string of superb saves from the Mexican goalkeeper saw the match end in a draw, a result deemed fair by most pundits.
Brazil will again depend heavily on the creativity of Neymar and Oscar as they look to finish their group stage in style. The likes of Hulk and Fred really need to up the ante while midfielders Paulinho and Hernanes need to get involved in the attack more and more.
Neymar, at 5/2 (Bet365) and Fred at 4/1 (PaddyPower), are the most popular choices to open the scoring in this match. Stan James are offering odds of 10/1 for Neymar to score a hat-trick for those punters who like to go the extra mile and take a real punt – against a team which has struggled defensively.
Cameroon have not had it easy in their games so far and the Africans clearly lack in discipline and team spirit. Jean Makoun is expected to step into the middle of the park on Monday as Alex Song was shown a straight red against Croatia for a rash and an embarassing challenge on Mario Mandzukic.
Also, the manner in which Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted his own teammate as the Croatians crushed them 4-0 was a clear act of misconduct on the pitch which went unpunished. Skipper Samuel Eto’o had to calm the left back down after it appeared that the defender was not finished with his teammate.
Eto’o will also need to reflect on the fact that his team are yet to score in their world cup campaign, which has been poor so far. Provided he gets a chance, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan star will be looking to prove a point or two on Monday. The fact that the Cameroonians have failed to score in this world cup is probably the reason why leading bookmakers such as BetVictor (8/15) and Winner Sports (1/2) are offering great odds for Brazil to win both halves of the game on Monday.
Coach Volker Finke may well choose to field an ultra-defensive side against Brazil as they look to make things difficult for the hosts. However, the opposition are probably a tad too strong in attack for that tactic to work which is reflected by the fact that the hosts are 17/2 to win 4-0 at Ladbrokes and 1/7 to win overall at BWin which are the most popular bets in these markets.
Over 3.5 goals to be scored: 5/4 (BetVictor)
Oscar to score anytime: 15/8 (bet365)