TV Coverage: ESPN in English and Univision in Spanish in the United States. In Mexico, Televisa, TV Azteca will have the match and the Cinepolis theater chain will be showing the match on the big screens.
What Mexico Needs to Accomplish: Mexico really needs a win. As much for confidence as anything else after a ragged qualifying campaign that needed help from their arch rival United States just to reach the World Cup. If Mexico draws, it is in a bit of trouble as a win over Croatia in the final group game would be required and then possibly a result in a hopeless match against Brazil would be needed to advance. If Mexico loses, pack the bags to head home. There is no way an inconsistent and somewhat lacking in confidence Mexican team is going to revive and get a result against Brazil if it loses to Cameroon.
Key player for Mexico: Whoever is playing in central midfield. Nominally, that is Andres Guardado, but nobody really likes that idea. The problem is that Luis Montes was lost to a broken leg in a pre-World Cup tuneup against Ecuador and Juan Carlos Medina didn’t even make it that far before being lost to injury. Guardado is going to get the start in the Cameroon game in the center of an odd 5-3-2 formation that seems much better suited for attempting to combat Brazil than a Cameroon team that Mexico should be attempting to attack.
Key player for Cameroon: Alex Song. Song hasn’t been in great form lately for Barcelona, but he is by far the best player in the Cameroon midfield. He will be needed if Mexico shows up strong. If Song is off pace by even a little bit, Mexico should be able to take advantage and keep Cameroon under pressure for the entire match.
Tactics: Mexico is playing a 5-3-2 formation that will require the two outside fullbacks to get forward at times and create enough numbers for sustained pressure. At the same time, if Mexico is able to get a lead, this allows dropping into a shell to protect that lead even though that is not advised against Cameroon as aging Samuel Eto’o can still take advantage.
Cameroon will play a traditional 4-3-3 with Eto’o likely in the middle as center forward. Additionally, Cameroon bring a wealth of other attacking talents including Vincent Aboubakar, fresh off a 16 goal campaign in Ligue 1 in France. The problem, as it has always been with Cameroon since their shock run to the quarterfinals in 1990 is defense. This means the aggressive 4-3-3 formation leaves an already lacking defense open for counterattacks, hence the importance of Song as a defensive midfield to stop those kind of counters.
One Big Advantage: In goal, Mexico is among the better teams in the world. Guillermo Ochoa is finally getting the chance to start a World Cup match after spending the last two tournaments on the bench. Behind him is Jesus Corona, a veteran and a good keeper highly adept at starting the counter attack. If something were to happen to Ochoa, Mexico would be in good hands with Corona.
On the Cameroon side, none of the three keepers have the skills or experience to match either Ochoa or Corona. The best of the bunch and likely starter is Charles Itandje who had a decent season for Konyaspor in the Turkish Super Lig. Still, beyond the top three teams in that league, the Mexican league is a better league and Itandje lacks international experience with only 9 caps to his name.
Final Prediction: Mexico has been in disarray since the beginning of the final round of qualifying. That won’t change here, but Cameroon is not well equipped to exploit it. Expect at least one of Mexico’s attacking players to have a good game and that should be enough with a defensive formation and a lack of options at the back for Cameroon.
Bottom Line – Mexico wins 2-1