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World Cup 2014

World Cup Review: Group A’s key tactical system, game-changing performance, best young player and XI

As the group stage comes to an end with two teams from each remaining in Brazil and the rest heading back home, we at Outside of the Boot have analysed each group, paying focus to four key aspects — the primary tactical trend that was noticeably successful, the individual game changing performance that decided which way a result went, the most consistent and best young player across the three games (Talent Radar) with the players qualifying no more than 22-years-old and an XI of the best players from the group.

Group A Update

Host nation Brazil go through as champions having defeated both Croatia & Cameroon but managing only a draw against Mexico. Mexico themselves comfortably saw off Croatia but struggled a bit against Cameroon. They finish second only on goal difference. Neymar finishes as the top scorer of the group with 4 goals while Guillerme Ochoa kept the most cleansheets (2).

Key Tactical System

Mexico have been the one team that have surpassed expectations and emerged from the group making this their 6th consecutive Round of 16 appearance, a record matched only by fellow group members Brazil, and Germany.  A primary reason for Mexico’s success has been their impressive defense which has managed to concede just 1 goal in three games. While we will give our due credit to the goalkeeper, Mexico’s defensive system of three centre-backs and hard-working full-backs on either side has been the key point in their success. With Rafael Marquez as the deepest defender, the Mexicans have managed to maintain an organised system.



The Mexican captain, the only one to captain a nation at four different World Cups, is helped on either side by Francisco Rodriguez and Hector Moreno. Club America players, Miguel Layun & Paul Aguilar play as the wide men in the defensive line. They are equipped with the task of performing in attack, quite significantly, but also having the pace in recovery to help out their defensive three. This has been a commonly successful trend at the World Cup and has certainly been the reason for most people’s surprise in Mexico’s qualification (ahead of Croatia) and point against Brazil.

Game-changing Performance

There aren’t too many names that pop-up from this group for a game changing performance. Neymar has put in two excellent shifts for Brazil, earning them two vital wins, but on a personal level (and many of you may agree with this), Guillermo Ochoa’s clean-sheet performance vs Brazil was incredible as he pulled off save after save helping his side to a famous 0-0 draw with the South American giants. He also finishes the group stage with just 1 goal conceded, a meaningless consolation from Croatia. But it is that performance against Brazil that stands-out above all.

Special mention again ofcourse to Neymar and both his brace-performances vs Croatia & Cameroon while Oscar also caught the eye in the opening game.

Talent Radar Best Young Player

A no-brainer this, Brazilian Neymar for his 4 goals leading his side to victory in two games while somehow at the age of 22 managing to handle the pressure of being the star player for a host nation, and more importantly, of Brazil. At the time of writing, he remains in the lead for the Golden Boot race, with some even predicting he might just get the cult status among enthusiasts awarded to the likes of Ronaldo & Ronaldinho before him. Neymar featured in our list of Talent Radar 25 Young Players to Watch at the World Cup, and here is a report of his performance against Croatia.

Best XI

Group A XIPlayers in red are Talent Radar youngsters

Read all our World Cup 2014 content here

Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
Sami Faizullah

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