2014 World Cup Preview: Group A

Group A - Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico

Ranked 4th in the world
Qualified as the host country

As hosts, Brazil has a distinct advantage, but also impalpable pressure to win the World Cup on home soil. "Selecao" has won five World Cup titles, including a 2002 win in South Korea/Japan and is looking to hoist the trophy for a sixth time.

Neymar, Jr., is among the most exciting young players in soccer today. The FC Barcelona star has his eyes on cementing his name in the worldwide consciousness at the World Cup and will have a strong supporting cast. PSG center back Thiago Silva is considered among the best defenders in the world, while Oscar will bring his playmaking skills from Chelsea's midfield. Brazil rolled through the Confederations Cup last summer and hopes to use that experience to do the same in the World Cup.

Ranked 50th in the world
Went 4-1-1 in the CAF Group Stage, then beat Tunisia 4-1 to qualify

Cameroon reached the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup, but hasn't gotten out of the Group Stage since, sometimes narrowly missing advancement and other times finishing at the bottom of the group.

Captained by former Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon is a longshot to get out of the Group Stage again, but with his speed and lethal finishing, there is always a chance if it can straighten out the defense that fell 5-1 to Portugal in a friendly this year. Barcelona midfielder Alex Song will need to have a big tournament to help slow the stronger teams in the group if Cameroon is to advance.

Ranked 20th in the world
Went 5-3-2 in the UEFA Group Stage, then beat Iceland 2-0 to qualify

In 1998, Croatia finished third in the World Cup, but has not come close to reaching that level since. A quarterfinal finish in the 2008 Euros showed promise, but it has thus far been unfulfilled promise.

It won't be easy to advance, but with the likes of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Shakhtar Donetsk forward Eduardo, there is a good chance that Croatia could make some waves in the tournament. A strong showing against Brazil could do wonders for Croatia, but if it doesn't succeed in the tournament opening match, there is still ample opportunity to get through with a much more friendly draw the rest of the way.

Ranked 19th in the world
Went 6-0-0 in the CONCACAF Group Stage, then 2-3-5 in the Hexagonal Round, needing a 9-3 playoff win over New Zealand to qualify.

Something of a Jekyll and Hyde team, Mexico was very good in the Group Stage but looked like they would be watching the World Cup from home in the Hexagonal Round.

Mexico has an experienced defense and a strong forward trio of Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Uribe Peralta. However, a youthful midfield contributes greatly to the up-and-down nature of El Tri. If those inexperienced players in the middle of the park play up to their potential, Mexico could challenge for a spot in the Round of 16. If not, it may have to rely on performances like the one Graham Zusi put in for the U.S. National Team against Panama that ultimately saw Mexico through in CONCACAF qualifying.