At home, Brazil clear favorite to win Group A

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SAO PAULO (AP) - Playing in front of its own fans, Brazil is expected to easily advance from Group A, leaving Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon fighting for the other spot in the second round.

The squad led by Neymar and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has won 13 of its last 14 matches and should be the team to beat in the group. Croatia and Mexico just barely made it through qualifying and will be hoping to regain their top form in Brazil, while Cameroon will be relying on striker Samuel Eto'o.

The Group A match between Brazil and Croatia will open the World Cup on June 12 in Sao Paulo.

Here are five things to know about Group A:

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FAVORITE HOSTS

Brazil is one of the favorites to go all the way to the final so it’s no surprise that few expect the hosts to face difficulties in the group stage.

The five-time champions have reached the second round every time since 1970, and after escaping some more traditional opponents in the draw, it should be able to avoid a major surprise in its group this time. Brazil has a winning record against all of its first-round opponents.

Boosted by its boisterous fans and confident following the Confederations Cup victory last year, Brazil will be looking to do better than it did at the last two World Cups, when it was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

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LATIN DOUBTS

After just barely qualifying, Mexico hopes to finally get past the second round in Brazil. The Latin Americans were eliminated in the round of 16 in the last five World Cups, by Argentina the last two times. At least this time there is no chance the Mexicans will play their nemesis right away, as the Argentines are in a different side of the bracket.

Mexico has reached the quarterfinals only twice, at home in 1970 and 1986.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is Mexico’s biggest star, but his place as a starter in Brazil is not guaranteed because of his lack of minutes at Manchester United.

The Mexicans have never played Cameroon at the World Cup, and it had only one match against Croatia (a 1-0 group win in 2002). It hasn’t had good fortune against Brazil, losing all three matches (1950, ‘54 and ‘62). It also lost to the Brazilians in the group stage of the Confederations Cup last year.

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