Brazil

Tchani realizes importance of opening match for Cameroon

Crew midfielder's nation opens 2014 FIFA World Cup against Mexico

Tony Tchani

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USA Today Sports Images

Although Crew midfielder Tony Tchani moved to the United States in 2004 and is a product of the University of Virginia, the Bafang, Cameroon native is an ardent supporter of his home nation in international soccer. The Indomitable Lions begin their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign today against Mexico (12:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2 & Watch ESPN), a match that Tchani is eagerly anticipating while understanding how crucial it is, given the nature of Cameroon's group.

"I think it’s going to be a very important game, because we have two good openings after that," said Tchani. "Beating Brazil in Brazil seems impossible, but if we can beat Mexico and try to beat Croatia, we can go through. I think the game [today] is going to be very crucial."

Drawn into Group A with the hosts, Cameroon has either the advantage or disadvantage of playing Brazil in its final group match, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, it could be difficult for Cameroon to get a needed result in its final match, should it come to that. On the other hand, the Indomitable Lions get to face Mexico and Croatia before taking their crack at the hosts, which presents an opportunity for them to get early points.

"I was just like, ‘what the heck,'" said Tchani, when he saw that his nation was drawn with the hosts in the tournament. "Playing against Brazil in Brazil is going to be a tough one. With that kind of game, you never know what is going to happen. The whole country is going to be against us, so I feel like that is an advantage [for them]. Having Croatia and Mexico, I feel a little bit better because I feel like we can beat those teams."

Tchani understands that today's match against Mexico is crucial for his homeland, which cannot afford to drop points ahead of the feature showdown with Brazil. After watching Mexico in pre-World Cup friendlies, he anticipates a tough match.

"I watched Mexico play in their last friendly against Portugal... After that game, I said ‘wow, Mexico looked really good,'" said Tchani. "That is a must-win game for us, because I feel like if we don’t win that game, it’s going to be very tough to get out of the group."