For the second-straight World Cup, Mexico will compete in the group stage against the tournament’s host nation.
In 2010, that meant facing South Africa. This year the Mexicans must face tourney favorite Brazil in their bid to advance beyond the group stage for the sixth consecutive time.
Mexico heads to the World Cup pegged as 125-1 long shots in World Cup futures wagering, followed by Croatia at 150-1. Croatia and Mexico are currently deadlocked in World Cup group betting, with odds of 15-2 to finish atop their group and 11-4 to finish at the bottom.
Brazil is a heavy 2-9 favorite to finish atop Group A and a 3-1 favorite to win their sixth World Cup.
After struggling mightily in the qualification round, Mexico appeared to have turned things around, manhandling New Zealand in their two-game playoff by an aggregate score of 9-3.
The squad has recorded clean sheets in three of its last five games, including wins over South Korea, Nigeria and Ecuador, all of which will compete at Brazil 2014.
However, Mexico’s recent 3-1 win over Ecuador came at a very high price. Shortly after scoring a spectacular goal, midfielder Luis Montes suffered a horrific injury, reportedly breaking both his tibia and fibula, and ending his 2014 World Cup dream before it starts.
Montes was expected to play a key offensive role for a Mexican squad that has struggled to find the back of the net; scoring a mere seven goals in 10 games during the last stage of CONCACAF qualifying.
In addition to Montes’ serious injury, squad captain Rafa Marquez was sent to the hospital after suffering a foot injury in the same match but is hopeful to be ready in time for Mexico’s opening match against Cameroon.
Like Croatia, Mexico will have to pick up a full three points in its match against Cameroon, a national side it has never faced, to have any chance of advancing to the next round. More important still will be Mexico’s final match against the Croats.
Second place in Group A will likely go to the winner of that match along with a round of 16 berth against the winner of Group B, possibly Spain, who at 6-1 sit among the favorites to repeat as World Cup champions.
It has been 12 years since Croatia and Mexico last met on the pitch. Mexico’s 1-0 victory in that 2002 World Cup match eventually powered it to the top spot in its group and a place in the knockout stage.