Croatia and Cameroon meet in the second round of Group A fixtures with both teams needing a result to keep their World Cup hopes alive after losing their first games to Brazil and Mexico respectively. A win for either team will give them a great chance to make it to the last 16, with the losing team knocked out of the tournament, making it a huge game in its importance.
Croatia will count themselves very unlucky to come away from the match against Brazil empty handed, after giving a great account of themselves in the opening game of the tournament. After taking the lead through a Marcelo own goal, a scuffed shot from Neymar made it 1-1 and then came the controversial moment in the match when Fred was adjudged to be fouled in the box. It was extremely harsh in the circumstances and the penalty gave Brazil the lead. Croatia then had a goal chalked off for offside, which again was debatable before Brazil capitalised on their tired opposition to make it 3-1. Croatia should not feel too downhearted about the result as they showed that they can be more than a match for the hosts and favourites for the tournament, and if they produce a similar performance here, they should be confident of the three points. Modric and Rakitic were superb in the middle and will again attempt to stamp their authority against Cameroon.
The boost for the Croats is that they have Bayern Munich forward Mario Mandzukic available after serving a ban during the first game. He should go straight into the squad in place of either Jelavic or Olic with the one dropping out likely to be an impact sub late on in the game. Apart from that Croatia will feel no need to change after a good performance so that is likely to be the only change to the first 11.
Key Player: Mario Mandzukic
Croatia will look to this game to exercise their attacking threat more often especially with Mandzukic back in the team. The Bayern Munich forward has been the front man for the German giants for the last two seasons and has scored 48 goals altogether, with 33 off them coming in the league. With 18 goals last season from 30 games, Mandzukic gave Bayern different options with the good ball control, off the ball movement and fantastic heading accuracy. With the pace of Ribery and Robben to match, Mandzukic was able to thrive in the middle, and will hope for the same here, with Modric and Rakitic the most probable suppliers.
Cameroon produced a poor display against Mexico and even though they were fortunate to be on the right side of two poor refereeing decisions, Mexico were still more than comfortable in their 1-0 win. As an attacking force, Cameroon were non-existent with Eto’o seeing very little of the ball throughout the match. One surprising aspect was the fact that the African side failed to capitalise on the physical advantage in the middle and allowed the more creative and skilful players for Mexico to take advantage. No doubt they will have looked back at the mistakes made and will attempt to go about the match differently, with their hopes looking slim with Brazil still to play in their last game.
Cameroon has been dealt a huge blow with the news that Samuel Eto’o will indeed miss the game due to a knee injury. The former Chelsea player stated that he felt a tweak in his knee early on in the game against Mexico and cited the lack of rest in the last few months as the reason behind the injury. Vincent Aboubakar is likely to replace Eto’o in attack alongside Choupo Moting and Moukandjo.
Key Player: Alex Song
The Cameroonian midfield were caught off guard by a swift Mexico team that were on the same wavelength, which the African team have to match going into this game. The middle trio of Song, M’bia and Enoh will hope to make their presence and strength count against the smaller players of Croatia and stop them from playing their natural game. Alex Song is experienced in the big games having played in many for both Arsenal and Barcelona, meaning that he will have to take the game by the scruff of the neck and help his team push forward as well as being compact the other way. Song did manage to create three chances against Mexico, as well as recording a passing accuracy rate of 97%, which is very impressive and he will hope to replicate these numbers in their second game.
Possible Line Up
Surprisingly these two teams have never faced each before and it is the first time Croatia will play an African side in the World Cup. Saying that, Cameroon seem to lack the cutting edge up front and are suspect at the back, especially at defending set pieces. The midfield battle will be crucial and if Croatia manage to control that area, I feel that they will walk away with a comfortable win.
My Prediction: Croatia 3-0 Cameroon