Brasilia: A stuttering Brazil will look to clinch a last-16 berth in the World Cup as they cross swords with the already-eliminated Cameroon in their final Group A match, at Estadio Nacional, here, on Monday.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have beaten Croatia and drawn with Mexico in their two matches so far, struggling to be convincing in either of them, but both Scolari and his players have claimed recently that the hosts are “evolving” as the tournament goes along.
Brazil head into their final group game — their 100th at the World Cup — still not certain of a place in the knockout rounds, but goalkeeper Julio Cesar insisted that the quality of opposition they have come up against as of now has helped the Selecao.
“This is a tough group, but that’s great for us. We prefer to play against these sides and face the difficulties because they get you focusing right from the start, which is important in short-term competitions,” Julio said.
A concern for Brazil in this World Cup is their midfield, which has been short on inspiration, failing to provide Neymar with the supply and space he needs to torment rival defenders.
Burly striker Hulk, suffering a hamstring problem in training ahead of the Mexico clash, looks set to earn a recall in place of Ramires.
The pressure on Brazil to do well at these finals is enormous, but Scolari’s team need not panic about their situation in the group.
They lead the group, ahead of Mexico by virtue of goal difference, and a draw will be enough to take them through to the next round where they face either The Netherlands or Chile.
Brazil would progress even they lose to the Cameroon, should Mexico beat Croatia in the other Group A tie in Recife.
In any case, the prospect of Brazil losing to a Cameroon side in complete disarray appears slim.
Volker Finke’s men have already failed in their attempts to become the first Cameroon team to advance from their group since 1990, and their campaign has been beset by trouble since the very beginning.
A row over bonuses overshadowed their build-up to the finals and they became one of the first teams to be eliminated, following an unimpressive performance against Mexico and a rather insipid show versus Croatia.
While Samuel Eto’ struggles due to a knee injury, coach Finke had to bear Alex Song’s tournament come to a premature end after he was sent off for a needless elbow to Mario Mandzukic.
What made matters worse for Cameroon was left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butting teammate Benjamin Moukandjo towards the end of the game versus Croatia.
“We need to talk to certain players. The behaviour of some of them was not at all satisfying. It’s unacceptable to see that kind of thing,” bemoaned Finke.
“There have been some situations where we have lacked concentration and a finishing touch against Croatia. But we can definitely do better against Brazil.”
Cameroon did, however, win their last meeting with Brazil when Eto’ scored the only goal in a 2003 Confederations Cup game.
“When you compare the Confederations Cup with the World Cup, it’s not the same… All the teams come very well prepared for the World Cup,” said defender David Luiz.
“The level today is very high… Cameroon may be out of the tournament, but they will still be playing for pride and looking for a reaction after the first two games.
“They will be looking to beat Brazil because it’s like winning the World Cup for them,” Luiz added.
“Many teams have studied us, so it’s harder now,” added left back Marcelo.
“We know we have to do what Felipao (Scolari) tells us. But that’s the World Cup, each game is harder than the one before.”