World Cup 2014 Predictions: Projections for Each Match and Top Stars on Day 2

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World Cup 2014 Predictions: Projections for Each Match and Top Stars on Day 2
Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

Six teams will take the pitch on Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup, and with the two finalists from the previous edition going head-to-head, fans will get the chance to see what form a number of top football stars are in.

Football may be a team sport, but individual brilliance often decides the matches played on the very highest level. With that in mind, let's go over the three matches being played on Friday and the biggest stars who will be playing a decisive role.

 

Mexico v Cameroon

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Top Stars: Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta; Samuel Eto'o

As reported by Goal.com's Tom Marshall, Miguel Herrera has decided to go with the attacking partnership of Oribe and Dos Santos, meaning Manchester United star Javier Hernandez will have to be content with a spot on the bench.

People may remember Dos Santos as the mercurial talent who failed to live up to his potential at Barcelona, but the forward has always played better for the national team than he has at the club level.

His 2013-14 season at Villarreal was by far the best he's had in his young career, and he'll now get the chance to rekindle some 2012 magic alongside Peralta.

Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

The 30-year-old formed a formidable strike force with Dos Santos during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and his two goals in the 2-1 final win over Brazil will forever live on in Mexican football history.

Expect this duo to be a handful for the defence of The Indomitable Lions, and if Mexico score, there's a good chance it will be through them.

On the other side of the pitch will be Samuel Eto'o, whose 2013-14 season with Chelsea had its ups and downs. For the first time in his impressive career, Eto'o looked every bit 33 years old.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

No longer able to rely on his superior athleticism, Eto'o still reads the game exceptionally well, and most of the goals he scored in a Chelsea kit came as a result of him being in the right place at the right time.

Eto'o looked impressive in Cameroon's 2-2 draw against Germany, and the 2014 World Cup will give the veteran the perfect stage to show interested clubs he still has what it takes to be a class striker.

Mexico's 5-3-2 uses aggressive runs down the line from both wing-backs, opening up space behind them. Cameroon's Joel Matip and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting already showed they can do damage when they get behind the lines against Germany, and with space to work with out wide, Eto'o should have plenty of opportunities to position himself to get on the end of crosses.

Prediction: Mexico and Cameroon battle to a draw, but the strikers shine.

 

Spain v Netherlands

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Top Stars: Andres Iniesta; Arjen Robben

Spain's formula for beating an opponent is well-known, but it has led them to two consecutive European Cup wins and a world title in 2010, so don't expect it to change.

On-ball dominance through a sensational group of midfielders keeps the action far away from the goal of Iker Casillas, and the incisive passing from Iniesta and company opens up acres of space for the full-backs and attackers to take advantage of.

The Netherlands tried to counter these midfielders with very physical tactics in 2010, and while that match got out of hand quickly, the Dutch team will most likely do something similar this year—play La Roja hard, but don't allow things to get dirty this time.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Kevin Strootman could have been the difference-maker in this match, but the AS Roma midfielder is still recovering from a knee injury and won't be suiting up. Daley Blind is a likely candidate to take over as enforcer in midfield, and while he is a promising player in his own right, he doesn't have the range that makes Strootman such a unique talent.

Holland's best chance at winning this fixture will be playing to their strengths—­attack. Wesley Sneijder is still a great distributor in the centre of the pitch, and a healthy Robin van Persie can be one of the world's most dangerous finishers.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But Robben is the key man for this team. A nightmare to defend out on the wing, his constant movement and tendency to cut inside and shoot is as predictable as it is unstoppable. Against Juanfran or Cesar Azpilicueta, the Bayern Munich midfielder will be truly tested, but Robben's fiery nature means he won't shy away from the challenge.

Iniesta and company will meet a 5-3-2 formation that will put a lot of bodies in the centre of the pitch, somewhat restricting their space to operate. But the Barcelona man is too good a player not to find a way to deal with that, just like he did in 2010.

Prediction: Spain start their campaign with a win, as Iniesta thoroughly outshines Robben.

 

Chile v Australia

Bruno Magalhaes/Associated Press

Top Stars: Alexis Sanchez; Mile Jedinak

It was very tempting to put down Tim Cahill as the Socceroos' top star, but Jedinak's excellent 2013-14 season means the Crystal Palace midfielder takes top honours.

Jedinak is exceptionally good at cleaning up in midfield, combining impressive vision with brute strength to win the ugly battles in the centre of the pitch. He won't blow you away with technicalities, but his work in front of the defence often goes unnoticed.

The Australians are expected to go home with zero points, facing three strong, attacking teams who will use their match against the Socceroos to boost their goal differential.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It's almost insulting to the team, who battled just as hard as the other 30 nations to make it to Brazil (excluding the host nation, of course), but then again, they haven't won an official match since 2012.

Matthew Ryan is a talented stopper, but the back four in front of him are relatively young and very inexperienced. Stopping attackers before they have a chance to engage the defence will be the team's best chance at not conceding.

Unforunately for Jedinak and his team-mates, winger Sanchez is in very good form and looking to make his mark. His club Barcelona are moving a lot of pieces in the wake of their trophyless 2013-14 season, and the attacker could be one of the casualties.

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

A good tournament will boost his stock tremendously, and it is another incentive for him to show what he's capable of against the Socceroos. Combining pace and trickery with a no-nonsense approach to goal, Sanchez often overpowers helpless wing-backs who aren't used to playing against such a whirlwind of a player.

Australia's inexperienced back line could be in for a wild ride on Friday, and if Arturo Vidal is able to play against Australia, Jedinak's hands will be too full to help out.

Prediction: Chile comfortably dispatch of Australia, with Sanchez scoring a brace. Jedinak does what he can, but Chile are just too good.

 


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