Fifa World Cup 2014

No panic in hosts' camp heading into D-day in group A

Scolari's men not taking their African opponents lightly but insist they are on an upward curve after failing to convince in their first two matches

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 11:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 11:14pm

Stuttering Brazil will look to clinch their berth in the last 16 of the World Cup as they host already-eliminated Cameroon in their final group A match at the National Stadium in Brasilia tonight (4am Hong Kong time).

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side have beaten Croatia and drawn with Mexico in their two games to date, struggling to convince in either match, but both the coach and his players have claimed in recent days that the World Cup 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 last week that the quality of opposition they have come up against so far has helped the Selecao.

This is a tough group, but that's great for us. We prefer to play against these sides and face these difficulties because it gets you focusing right from the start
Julio Cesar

"This is a tough group, but that's great for us. We prefer to play against these sides and face these difficulties because it gets you focusing right from the start, which is important in short-term competitions," he said.

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 it on goal difference from Mexico, and a draw will be enough to take them through to a second-round clash with either Chile or the Netherlands.

Indeed, they would still progress even in defeat, if Mexico beat Croatia in the group's other game, being played at the same time in Recife.

In any case, the prospect of Brazil losing to a Cameroon side in disarray seems slim in the extreme. 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 and they became one of the first teams to be eliminated after following up a 1-0 defeat to Mexico by losing 4-0 to Croatia last Wednesday.

While Samuel Eto'o continues to struggle with a knee injury - he has not trained since the Mexico game - Finke saw Alex Song's tournament come to a premature end after he was sent off for a needless elbow in the back of Mario Mandzukic against Croatia, before left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo on the pitch near the end of the game.

"We will 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 coach Finke.

Of his team's performances he said: "We have already analysed the first two games and worked well with the players. There have been some situations where we have lacked concentration and we also lacked a finishing touch against Croatia but we can do better against Brazil."

Despite the problems, Brazil are wary of Cameroon for what will be the nations' first competitive encounter since the Indomitable Lions stunned the then world champions 1-0 in the 2003 Confederations Cup in France.

"Cameroon are coming without any responsibility but they will still be playing for pride and looking for a reaction after the first two games," said Brazil defender David Luiz.

For Brazil, powerful forward Hulk, who suffered a hamstring problem in training ahead of the Mexico clash, looks set to earn a recall in place of Ramires.

The latter is one of four players - along with Thiago Silva, Luiz Gustavo and Neymar - currently just one booking away from picking up a suspension.