Group A

Croatia's Luka Modric.

Croatia's Luka Modric. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It's the place to be on opening day as Brazil kick-off the World Cup in their own country.

Not exactly a group of death, but there are four decent teams in Group A.

The Brazilians are top-seeded and it would be an almighty shock if they didn't live up to that position. However, Croatia are no mugs – and Mexico and Cameroon will be difficult propositions.

Neymar will no doubt be expected to leads the Brazilians into battle, but he could end up being a foil for another of their stars – although it is fair to say the hosts are not the force they once were.

Croatia have struggled on the big stage of late and will be without top scorer Mario Mandzukic for the opening game against Brazil – the towering Bayern Munich striker is suspended for the game.


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• Brazil

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Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Star player: Neymar

Previous record: Five-time winners

Summary: Not quite the Brazil of old – certainly not of the fabulous 1970 variety. While Neymar has all the silky skills, the other side of Brazil is defender Dani Alves – a quality player but a master of the sport's darker side.

• Mexico

Manager: Miguel Herrera

Star player: Oribe Peralta

Previous record: 1986 quarter-finals

Summary: Won't lack for support, but will need to up their game after qualifying – they had to beat New Zealand in a play-off to ensure they got here. Watch out for Manchester United's Little Pea, Javier Hernandez.

• Croatia

Manager: Niko Kovac

Star player: Luka Modric

Previous record: 1998 semi-finals

Summary: Came through a two-legged semi-final against Iceland to reach Brazil – not the best recommendation, but they do tend to make headlines at tournaments – if only for their red and white chequered shirts.

• Cameroon

Manager: Volker Finke

Star player: Samuel Eto'o

Previous record: 1990 quarter-finals

Summary: Football fans fell in love with the Cameroon of 1990, but it wasn't long before they began collecting red cards and bursting that particular bubble. Lots of English interest: will we love or hate them this time?

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