Key Battles That Will Shape Brazil's World Cup Clash with Cameroon
Brazil take on Cameroon in their final Group A game on Monday night in the knowledge that qualification to the second round of the competition they host is not yet assured.
However, with their opponents having collapsed to two disappointing defeats thus far in the tournament, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side will be confident of ensuring progression to the second stage.
Given the recriminations the Cameroonians have faced in recent days, though, it would seem unlikely that they will roll over quite so meekly again.
Where, then, will the game be won and lost?
Cameroon vs. Themselves
Cameroon's second World Cup fixture with Croatia ended in disgrace when two of the 10 men remaining on the pitch were involved in unsavoury confrontation.
With their competition now over, manager Volker Finke has suggested that those troublemaking elements of the dressing room will be axed. Cameroon are in desperate need of a new direction.
Whatever happens result-wise against Brazil, it is now desperately important that the African side leave the tournament with some of their reputation intact.
Fred vs. Nicolas N'koulou
One player who will almost certainly lead the new Cameroon in years ahead is Marseille’s Nicolas N'koulou, a fine defender with all the qualities to be one of the best of his generation.
With Finke’s side having failed defensively thus far, they will be keen on finishing the story with a shutout against Brazil’s much-vaunted attack and N'koulou will be key to their hopes.
Coming up against him on this occasion will be underperforming Brazil striker Fred who will be equally keen to kick-start his World Cup campaign.
He may contribute little outside the box, but he is a natural goalscorer who can punish any side if given a sniff of an opportunity. N'koulou will have to remain concentrated for the entire 90 minutes.
Neymar vs. Dany Nounkeu
The 2014 World Cup began with a bang for Brazil poster boy Neymar when he bagged a brace against Croatia in the tournament’s opening game. However, a disappointing showing against Mexico could see him return to the left flank against Cameroon.
Should he line up on the left, he will probably be pitted against Besiktas’ Dany Nounkeu who has featured as a substitute at half-time in both encounters to date.
Having put in a good showing on both occasions while others around him faltered, Nounkeu is one of the few Cameroon players to have emerged with any credit from the tournament thus far.
Against Brazil and Neymar, though, he will face his biggest test thus far.
Thiago Silva vs. Vincent Aboubakar
Thiago Silva has matched up well to some of the world’s best forwards over the years, but he will face a unique proposition in Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar on Monday night.
Aboubakar showed flashes of his potential against Croatia, with his pace and strength a real threat to any defender. His radar may have been off on that occasion but he has shown in Ligue 1 this season that he can be a real threat if handed opportunities.
Thiago Silva has shown time and time again that he can handle himself against combative forwards both refined and more industrial. Occasionally, though, someone is able to unsettle the PSG star.
Aboubakar, if given service, will hope he can be that man and continue to build his reputation ahead of a possible summer move from Lorient.
Dani Alves vs. Eric Choupo-Moting
One of a handful of Brazil players who've had their performances of recent weeks questioned, Dani Alves will face a difficult test on Monday against pacy Mainz forward Eric Choupo-Moting.
Choupo-Moting, either side of an injury-hit campaign, has hit double figures in the Bundesliga in his last two complete seasons and has a strong record of over one goal every three games for his country.
With Dani Alves having appeared suspect defensively, Choupo-Moting will hope that he can exploit any gaps behind the adventurous full-back—particularly if Brazil are forced to attack.
With one player looking to prove their continued worth and one out to show that they are ready to step up to a higher level, it could be a clash worth watching.