This one was never close. Attack-minded Croatia dominated its second match of the tournament against Cameroon, looking like the superior side in every facet. Croatia bounced back from its 3-1 loss to Brazil in the World Cup opener quickly with an 11th-minute goal from 34-year-old forward Ivica Olic, who found the back of the net after characteristically hard work from star striker Mario Mandzukic (who missed the first match due to a prior red card) and a terrific assist from Ivan Perisic. Already missing longtime leader Samuel Eto'o because of a knee injury, Cameroon lost high-profile midfielder Alex Song in the 40th minute to a red card after an elbow to the back of Mandzukic to make any comeback extremely unlikely. Croatia turned the second half into an ugly scene, scoring three goals (one from Perisic followed by two from Mandzukic). Cameroon manufactured a few chances but failed to finish. The scoreline arguably undersells the extent to which Croatia controlled the match. Les Lions Indompatbles proved to be quite domitable.
[Photos: Best images from Croatia vs. Cameroon]
Man of the Match
Perisic made a strong case by assisting on the first goal and scoring the second, but Mandzukic made a world of difference in his first match of the World Cup. Known for his work ethic and finishing ability, particularly with club Bayern Munich, Mandzukic occupied Cameroonian defenders very often, scored twice and helped create the opportunity that led to Olic's opening goal. Croatia is a much better team when he's on the pitch.
Sometimes it's best to be blunt.
Cameroon has been mathematically eliminated from the tournament and can only prove spoiler to hosts Brazil with a near-impossible multi-goal victory in its final match (plus another Croatia win). If that very unlikely scenario does not occur, then Monday's match between Croatia and Mexico looks set to decide Group A's second team in the round of 16. At three points to Mexico's four, Croatia needs a win to move on. Mexico can advance with a draw, but a win could let it top a group that once looked earmarked for Brazil. The match figures to involve an interesting blend of styles and could be one of the most exciting matches of the group stage.
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