Croatia and Cameroon’s match was crucial for each team as both lost their opening matches of the World Cup to Brazil and Mexico respectively. For any chance of either team moving onto the knockout stages one would have to win the match, and that is exactly what Croatia did in emphatic fashion by a score of 4-0.
The match started positively for each side as they looked lively and ready to attack. Early on in the first half Cameroon showed much more going forward, even without their captain and star striker Samuel Eto’o, who was sidelined through injury. In the 11th minute Croatia was able to find the opening goal through a tap-in from Ivica Olic, who got on the end of a low cross after the Cameroon defense failed to clear their lines. It was a deserved goal as the Europeans looked primed to score and the Africans defense looked shaky. Defending set pieces was an issue for the Africans throughout the entire first half, nearly letting Croatia double their lead on a number of broken down plays resulting from set pieces.
The turning point in the match came in the 40th minute when Alex Song made a crucial mistake and received a straight red card. Mario Mandzukic beat him to the ball in the midfield, and as Song chased him he swatted at him from behind, right in front of the referee, who quickly sent the Barcelona midfielder off of the pitch. At this point Cameroon were already chasing the game–being down 1-0–and Song’s antics only dug the hole deeper.
The second half started much like the first, with Croatia attacking and Cameroon looking vulnerable at the back. The second goal came early in the half–in the 48th minute–when Ivan Perisic flew down the left flank, picked his head up to cross and saw the keeper cheating toward the centering pass. He finished right over him off his left foot. Even after the second goal the Europeans kept attacking, being up a man over Cameroon. In the 62nd minute, Croatia poured in another goal when Mandzukic got on the end of a corner and headed it in for his first goal of the World Cup. He added another one in the 72nd minute when Eduardo’s shot was saved right onto his feet and he put away the team’s fourth goal on the day. Cameroon were not able to create any type of clear-cut chances throughout the entire match and it showed in the final score line. The Europeans continued to create chances–even with the score 4-0–getting a couple more shots on target.
Cameroon is now eliminated from the World Cup with no points in the first two matches. Even without the red card, the match would have been in the Croatians favor as they dominated the match from start to finish. The Africans had no answer for their opponents while in defense as the back line could not keep the Croatian attackers from getting in front of net.
Alex Song’s first half red card left the Africans with only ten men, and the Croatians certainly took advantage of that, scoring three goals in the second half, including a Mario Mandzukic brace. Croatia’s 4-0 dismantling of Cameroon has left them with a crucial last group “A” match against Mexico, who have four points to Croatia’s current three. If they can win that match, they will be through to the knockout stages.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius