Cameroon (0-0-0) vs. Mexico (0-0-0), 12 p.m. (ET)
06/13/2014 9:50 AM
06/13/2014 9:55 AM
Natal, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - After an absolutely dismal qualifying campaign, Mexico will get its first chance to put that struggle in the rearview mirror on Friday against Cameroon in Group A play at the Estadio das Dunas.
Mexico struggled mightily in CONCACAF qualifying, finishing fourth and needing a gift from the United States just to reach Brazil.
El Tri was on the verge of staying home before the United States, which had already qualified for the World Cup, scored in stoppage time against Panama in the final round of matches to help Mexico clinch fourth place.
A fourth-place finish meant El Tri faced New Zealand in a two-legged playoff, but breezed past the All Whites, 9-3, on aggregate to avert disaster.
Head coach Miguel Herrera, who was installed as the team's fourth head coach during qualifying, will be hoping his side can put that difficulty in the past and focus on getting out of a tough group.
Herrera has only been in charge for about six months, and he is taking a bit of a gamble by pinning Mexico's hopes on 35-year-old defender Rafael Marquez, who will become the first player to captain his side at four different World Cups.
Javier Hernandez is a familiar face up top for Mexico, but the team will also rely on some new blood as well with Oribe Peralta leading the team in goals in qualifying while Carlos Pena carved out a place in the midfield for himself with some strong performances recently.
But El Tri will be without a pair of players in Luis Montes and Juan Carlos Medina.
Medina, 31, figured to occupy a defensive role in the middle of the field but who will miss the tournament because of an ankle injury, while Montes will miss the tournament with a broken leg suffered in a friendly against Ecuador.
Cameroon, meanwhile, will be making its seventh appearance in the World Cup hoping to replicate the success they had 24 years ago.
The 1990 team stunned the rest of the world by becoming the first African side to reach the quarterfinals at the World Cup as they were led by the scoring exploits of veteran striker Roger Milla.
Head coach Volker Finke's team will be trying to break a streak of four straight group-stage exits.
The Indomitable Lions are led by 32-year-old forward Samuel Eto'o.
Eto'o has been in and out of the side in recent years, but enters the World Cup in fine form after scoring nine goals in 21 appearances for Chelsea last season.
Eto'o has netted three World Cup goals in his career, leaving him two short of Milla's record for the national team, and he may need to match that total if the team is going to finish in the top two in Group A.
Vincent Aboubakar and Pierre Webo will also be expected to share some of the scoring load, while Alex Song, Stephane Mbia and Jean Makoun make up a quality midfield.
With Brazil and Croatia also in Group A Friday's match is crucial for both clubs. Mexico will be hoping to get off to a good start with three points, while Cameroon will also need three points if they hope to escape the group stage.
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