June 18, 2014

Croatia 4, Cameroon 0: Another one bites the dust.  The "Indomitable Lions" looked inept, dropping their sixth straight since 2002, and have won only one game in fifteen attempts since they reached the quarterfinals in 1990. Mario Mandzukic, who sat out the opener with Brazil, scored twice for the Croatians. With one player red-carded for an unprovoked punch to the back of a Croatian, and two other Cameroonian players head-butting each other in the final minutes, this was a true debacle.

At some point, it needs to be said that the continent of Africa is getting no favors by having five teams in every World Cup.  Invariably, two or three of the teams will stink up the competition, finishing last in their groups, and one or two teams will play competitively only because they use eleven defenders.  The exceptions, Ghana and Ivory Coast, are genuine world class teams, but having to compete in a region that makes CONCACAF seem like the Group of Death assures them little benefit.  And of course, in every Cup there will be at least one squad (ie., Togo (2006), and Cameroon every Cup since 1998) that goes out on strike whining about the non-receipt of "bonuses" (ie., kickbacks) beforehand, which inevitably leads to that team going three-and-out once the competition starts. Cameroon has several terrific players, including Samuel Eto'o, but no leaders, no one like Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, who can bind his team together against a common adversary for the greater good.

But of course, Africa is the continent with the most countries, and therefore the most football associations, which under the archaic, "one country, one vote" rules of FIFA, mean it has a say on matters way out of proportion to its ability to send out world class teams to the Cup.  It is a simple quid pro quo; FIFA gives Africa five spots, and the African soccer federations provide the votes that allow the upper hierarchy of FIFA to maintain the corrupt status quo.

So one team is eliminated, and three teams are left to decide who advances out of Group A.  Brazil leads Mexico right now on goal differential, and will place at least second with a draw.  Mexico will also advance with a win or draw; Croatia needs a win to advance, and a Brazil loss to win the group outright.  Interestingly, Brazil will probably be eliminated (!) if it somehow loses to Cameroon and Mexico and Croatia tie.

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