Both Mexico and Cameroon stumbled into the World Cup, and both teams are desperate to get started on the right foot.
Mexico was terrible in qualifying, barely finding their way into the Cup only because the United States beat Panama late in the last qualifier and the Mexicans survived a home-and-home playoff with New Zealand. The team is counting on 4-time cup team captain Rafael Marquez to keep things tight at the back. The Mexican had been hopeful that this is their year, finally, after strides in youth development, but after the poor qualifying, many are left wondering. Mexico has been booted in the second round in the last five World Cups.
Lucky for Mexico, their World Cup campaign will start against a team who has endured even greater pre-tournament problems. Apparently this story never gets old for Cameroon. The country's national team has had a host of problems in recent times, within the squad and with the Cameroon Football Federation.
Samuel Eto'o has been at the center of these issues, and has gone in and out of international retirement. Problems again arose just before this year's tournament too, when Cameroon's flight to Brazil was delayed by a day after a payment disagreement with the Federation.
When it comes to matter on the pitch, Eto'o remains a crucial component for the team to find success. The 33-year-old had a difficult season with Chelsea in the Premier League, but still managed to get into double figures in goals in all competitions. He may struggle to get adequate service for his country, however. Cameroon lacks a natural creative midfielder, with Alex Song having much responsibility to step out of his more restricted role for Barcelona.
The good news for Cameroon is their defense, led by the talented Nicolas N'Koulou has the ability to frustrate Mexico for long spells, especially because of Mexico's issues on offense as of late.
Mexico needs to win to put pressure on Croatia, its rival for the second qualifying spot in group A. Brazil is expected to get the first. For Cameroon, this game is probably the best chance for a point in group play as they are not expected to fare well against the other teams.
Prediction: Cameroon's defense will step up and shock Mexico, 1-0. The Mexicans inability to be creative on offense will be it's downfall.
The match is set for today, June 13, 2014, at noon E.T. in Arena das Dunas, Natal. ESPN 2 network will broadcast the game live on TV.