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Mexico - Apertura
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World Cup 2014
June 18, 2014
• 6:00 PM
• Arena Amazônia, Manaus, Amazonas
Referee: Pedro Proença
• Attendance: 39982
I. Olić 11'
I. Perišić 48'
M. Mandžukić 61', 73'
Croatia now set up for a winner takes all game against Mexico in five days. That's about it for now folks, from me, Keeghann Sinanan, it's been a pleasure!
Goals from Olic, Perisic and a double from the returning Mandzukic put the Africans to the sword, who ended the game with Moukandjo and Assou-Ekotto at each others throats. They have been eliminated.
It was never in the stars for Cameroon since Song's red card. Croatia make full use of their man advantage to rack up their biggest ever winning margin in a World Cup.
90' + 2'
The final seconds of injury time ebb away and it's all over! Cameroon have been dumped out of the World Cup.
90' + 1'
Incredible scenes on the replay show Assou-Ekotto and Moukandjo involved in a heated argument. The Spurs man nearly aims a headbutt in his teammates direction! Unbelievable! Cameroon are quite literally falling apart at the seams.
Webo bounces a header off the ground and onto the crossbar via a touch from Pletikosa. Moments later, Eduardo is cautioned for a good old fashioned striker's tackle on Salli.
ANOTHER CHANCE WASTED! It's that man again Rebic, who beats the offside trap to sear down the right hand side. Rakitic is sprinting in completely unmarked in the centre and hes found by the sub. He lifts the ball over Itandje...but it bobbles wide!
COULD HAVE BEEN FIVE! Rebic has been menacing since taking the place of Perisic, and he beats his man down the left once again, cutting onto his opposite foot to have a go on goal, but Itandje spreads himself to parry, and Assou-Ekotto clears the rebound in a haste!
Heads in hands all over the Cameroon bench as Moukandjo misses the target on a decent shooting chance. They can't buy a slice of luck for money or for love in this game.
Rebic out-muscles and out-hustles his way down the left hand side past N'Koulou, and his low cross into the box sparks a game of hot-potato amongst the interested Croatian parties. It's ended in an unexpected manner - a poor first touch from Rakitic.
Eduardo makes a superb run off the ball to latch on to Kovacic's through pass, and he has only Assou-Ekotto between him and the goal. But everyone and their mother know that he's cutting onto his left foot, and the former Spurs left back reads his intentions to make the block.
One more goal for Croatia, and Cameroon will have their biggest ever margin of defeat at a World Cup equaled. They have nine minutes to avoid an unwanted slice of history, the 2014 Indomitable Lions.
It's shaping up to be a battle royale between Mexico and Croatia on the final group matchday, which is set to go down on June 23 in Recife. Win, and Croatia make it through. Lose, and they don't. Draw, and they're relying on a directionless Cameroon side to pull a shock for the ages against Brazil.
Job very well done for Perisic, who is another Croatian to be having an impressive World Cup campaign so far. One goal and an assist - not bad for a night's work! On comes Rebic, and that's all three subs on the pitch now for the Vatreni.
Mandzukic gets tugged to the turf by Assou-Ekotto in a battle for a looping cross, but the referee does not deem it an infringement. Srna latches onto the rebound from the top of the box, but drills his shot right into a defender. The oles starting to ring out from the stands!
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
A record World Cup haul for the Vatreni here, and it could be a lot more by the time that all is said and done. Sill just over 15 minutes plus added time to go here. Cameroon just want this to end.
It's been coming for a while, and duly arrives in the simplest fashion. Eduardo's curler was parried by Itandje, who could do nothing to stop Mandzukic from poking home the rebound.
Another change from Finke, as Webo, who was slated to start, replaces Aboubakar. Kovac responds in kind with his second change, bringing on Inter Milan's Kovacic for Sammir.
Pierre Achille Webo
Mbia was partially at fault for two goals, but he's been the only one trying in the attacking third. He flashes another shot off target after yet another driving run, and another half chance dries up.
And the first sub from Kovac takes place. Eduardo's finished his warm up, and the Rio de Janeiro native comes on to play in the country of his birth. He will take the place of Olic, whose impressive World Cup continues with a goal and another tireless shift.
ABOUBAKAR! He has Mbia to thank for that chance, which he wasted. The Cameroon right back has motored his side forward more than once, and after skipping past his man, he squares to the striker at the top of the box, who sets up...and bends it badly over.
Eduardo warms up on the sidelines as gaps continue to appear all over the Cameron half. However, there's been a few encouraging yet completely uncoordinated bursts from the Africans on the break.
Goal difference of course is the first tiebreaker for teams level on points - which might occur after the final matchday if Croatia and Mexico tie, and Cameroon somehow beat Brazil. That would leave both Brazil and Croatia level on four points - the only scenario where teams in Group A will finish level. An unlikely outcome, but Croatia have a chance to play the odds in the 26 minutes that remain!
This is a fantastic opportunity for Croatia to really boost their goal difference tally. I'll stick my neck out and say that Croatia will win this game, which will leave them one point behind Mexico and Brazil in the group - heading into their final game against El Tri.
Mandzukic scores in the most Mandzukic way possible. From the corner, he rises above his marker and plants a powerful header out of the reach of Itandje. Excellent goal!
MANDZUKIC OBLIGES! 3-0!
Pranjic comes close to converting a Rakitic corner to score his first ever international goal, but he can't convert. However, he may have another crack as Croatia have another corner...
Not quite. Srna gets it up and over the five man Cameroon wall, but the ball doesn't move back down in time, and Itandje can watch it sail over the bar...but the ball will surely be back around his goal soon enough.
N'Koulou wields the machete to chop down Perisic right at the top of the box. The referee intervenes immediately, and Croatia set up a very tasty free kick chance through Srna...
Cameroon just can't keep a hold of the ball. To be honest, that's hard to blame completely on their numerical disadvantage. There's been less time on the ball, yes, but some poor first touches and a complete lack of attacking coordination hasn't helped one bit.
Rakitic spots and finds Olic in space down the same right hand side that Cameroon so briefly threatened to tear open at the beginning of this game. But it's a surprisingly lazy attempt at a cross from Olic, who can't come close to beating the first man.
A man down in midfield is NOT a position you want to be in against a side that boasts the supreme talents of Rakitic and Modric in midfield. The pair are among the best in the business at keeping a hold of the ball, and they already look to be relishing the extra space in the middle of the park.
That should give the Indomitable Lions some confidence, and given that they need two goals, they need every bit of it that they can get. It's going to take a herculean effort for them to keep their World Cup dream alive.
This is shaping up to be all kinds of ugly for Cameroon in this second half...but perhaps they're not quite done yet? Nounkeu makes his first notable contribution since coming on at the interval, lashing a volley from Assou-Ekotto's deep cross, but flashing it about a foot too high. Had the potential to be something special, that strike.
MANDZUKIC CAN'T FINISH IT! Sammir, who has been as effective as any in the middle of the park, flashes a lovely ball between the centre backs for the big striker to chase. He gets well ahead of his marker, but with Itandje rushing out, he places his finish wide!
Croatia strike again! It took them only three minutes after the restart! And what a goal it was from Perisic! Itandje's terrible clearance was pounced on by the Wolfsburg man, but he still had a lot of ground to cover. And cover it he did, sprinting half the pitch past Mbia, before dinking the ball gently home!
GAME OVER FOR CAMEROON?
Volker Finke makes one change at the break, bringing on Dany Nounkeu for Chedjou. Doesn't seem to be too much as a result of Song's dismissal, as Nounkeu will slot right into Chedjou's vacated centre back slot.
Aurélien Chedjou Fongang
Here we go again!
Croatia have been all over Cameroon since the opener, and it could get ugly for the Africans in the second half. A draw will still leave both sides in contention for the last 16, but it's going to be so hard for them to both score, and keep Croatia out.
Having failed to score a World Cup goal as of yet, their hopes were diminished thanks to Alex Song, who simply shot his side in the foot. Inexplicably, the former Arsenal midfielder swung his arm into Mandzukic's back off the ball, and was given a straight red card.
Cameroon started the match with a bang, but since then, it's been Croatia the ones bringing the noise. Olic broke the deadlock with 11 minutes on the clock and since then, Itandje has easily been the more concerned keeper.
Aboubakar gets the embattled Cameroon fans whipped up into a lather for one second with an encouraging counter attack. However, he cannot keep any kind of range on his shot, and simply skies it. And with that, a miserable first half for the Indomitable Lions is complete.
Croatia unsurprisingly have dominated all of the ball since the dismissal. They're not really pressing for an opening though - probably ready for the half time break already, and a chance to figure out how best to exploit their numerical advantage.
That reaction from Song came out of nowhere, and it's left Cameroon in all sorts of trouble. They now need at least one and probably two goals with one man less - really a moronic move from the Barca man. Even if Cameroon live to fight on in the knockout stages, his inclusion may be in doubt.
Red CardAlex Song
You simply cannot do that! Song, nowhere near the ball, lashes out into the back of Mandzukic. It was a shameless punch from the Barcelona man, and the referee is quite right to send him off for his stupidity.
ALEX SONG HAS BEEN SENT OFF!
Sammir attempts to respond in kind at the other end of the pitch, and this time he manages to get a shot away, but it's way too easy for Itandje, who simply stooped to scoop it up.
Croatia's back four are holding pretty firm, and they withstand an ungainly yet effective run from Matip, who bundles his way past two challenges before running out of room.
Itandje fumbles and coughs up a corner. Rakitic whips it in, and Perisic attacks with a powerful header, but he can't keep it on target. Needless danger for Cameroon to concede there though.
Choupo-Moting loses out on the top of the area thanks to a timely tackle from Modric. He's not having any luck, the Mainz forward. He used to play for the Germany under-19 and under-21 sides, but switched his allegiance to Cameroon, given the amount of attacking talent that's currently on the roster of Die Mannschaft.
Mbia sparks Cameroon forward on the break, but his cross can't find its mark. It's been slowly and increasingly frustrating for Cameroon who, remember, will be heading home should this scoreline hold.
N'Koulou is the man captaining the Indomitable Lions tonight. He barely played for Marseille last season, but that still hasn't stopped a regular stream of transfer rumours linking him with a move away from France.
With Srna out of commission for the time being, Rakitic takes charge of a free kick on the right hand side, and pings it in towards Mandzukic at the far post. The striker make contact acrobatically, but he can't steer it in the right direction. Itandje picks up the pieces.
Srna has to be helped off to the sidelines with a hand on each shoulder after Enoh clipped him during a scramble for the ball. It doesn't look too serious, but no cautions taken when it concerns their ever influential right back.
Olic tries to channel his inner Van Basten - or his inner Cahill for a more contemporary reference. However, his volley goes nowhere near where it should, and Cameroon are allowed to restart on the ball.
More patient period to the game in the last few minutes as Cameroon hold onto the ball. They want to fully extinguish the danger caused by that earlier spell of Croatia attacking pressure. However, Kovac's men are doing a good job of unilaterally pressing their opponents.
Sammir comes up with a great defensive play for the Vatreni. The Croatia playmaker drifts out of his number 10 position to harry Choupo-Moting into losing the ball, then winning a free kick off the same player, who attempted to get it back straight away.
Cameroon as of late have looked to have weathered the chequered storm. They've gotten off another shot that doesn't come close to troubling Pletikosa, but at least it's keeping the ball away from their own goal! Wonderful flow to this game.
The Arena Amazonia is witness to a superb atmosphere for this game. Both sets of fans are having a good-spirited game of one-upsmanship when it comes to out-chanting the other.
A belated spell of possession for Cameroon draws their nervous fans back into song, and Mbia finds himself with a considerable gap to shoot from 20 yards, but he's well wide of Pletikosa's goal. Still, an unsettling amount of space for the left back to have a crack there.
Croatia continue to dominate and prod at the Cameroon defence. It's like the opening to the game in reverse - Volker Finke's men can barely manage to move the ball across the centre circle. It could get even worse for them if they don't tighten up the ship.
Their latest corner kick is eventually worked out to Rakitic at the top of the box, and the new Barcelona man does not hesitate to have a crack on goal, but it's a little too easy in the end for Itandje.
CAMEROON BAILED OUT by a miss from Perisic from close range. The Indomitable Lions fail to deal with a corner, and the ball falls for the ex-Dortmund man from close range, but he can't convert!
The Cameroon defence is really wobbling now, as Croatia start to tighten the noose. The Vatreni have been clearly on top since Olic's opener, and have won a series of corners to put the Africans under pressure.
We've already had seven comeback victories in this World Cup, so I don't think that Cameroon will be critically worried. In contrast, the previous World Cup in South Africa managed only four such games in the entire tournament. And Croatia know all about losing from a winning position, after their tough opening day lost to Brazil.
Cameroon must be stunned. A great start to the game has now been undone with one swing of Olic's boot - who, by the way, has just scored his first World Cup goal for 12 years - and his 19th for the Vatreni. Can the Indomitable Lions dust themselves off and hit back?
Well, that one's rubbing against the grain, isn't it! Chedjou just fails to get enough on Srna's cross to clear, and Perisic is allowed to pick up the pieces at the top of the box. He spots Olic at the far post, and the striker hops around his man to poke home the opener!
CROATIA HAVE THE LEAD!
First real notable participation of Croatia in this game, at least in an attacking sense. Mandzukic, now risen again after complaining of a Cameroonian elbow, just fails to get on the end of Perisic's cross. He'll be in for quite a battle against the muscular pair of N'Koulou and Chedjou, but then again, he relishes those contests!
That right flank once again has been breached. Pranjic is looking not a day younger than his 32 years, as Aboubakar wins another potentially dangerous free kick against him with a searing burst to the byeline.
Have Croatia even gotten the ball out of their own half yet? Incredible start from the energetic African side, who look good bets to open their account for the first time at this tournament.
Assou-Ekotto takes charge of the resulting corner, and for a moment it's pandemonium in the Croatia box when Aboubakar and Mbia go for it, but the referee whistles for a foul to bail them out.
Disappointing end to that tangent from Song, who drills a low free kick right into the first man. But feat not Indomitable Lions fans, your team are right back on the hunt!
Looks already to be a real battle shaping up between Moukandjo and Pranjic down that right flank. The former Bayern fullback clips his Cameroon opponent just outside the box, leading to a promising free kick situation...
Half a scare in the opening moments for the Vatreni, as Alex Song pings a ball down the right that finds Moukandjo a step ahead of Pranjic. He aims to get the cross in early to catch the defence unawares, but he's only able to plant the ball into the side netting.
The ref gets us started!
We've already had an eventful day in Brazil. Netherlands dispatched Australia in a wonderful game earlier in the day that saw the Socceroos sent packing. Also, I doubt you've heard, but Spain are out of the tournament thanks to a 2-0 loss to Chile at the Maracana - which has sucked yet another historic moment into its roots.
A draw would salvage a modicrum of hope for progression, but it will make things rather complicated and desperate come the final group matchday, and I'm sure that both Volker Finke and Niko Kovac will not want anything to do with that potential channel-flicking mess. The message must be simple from both coaches to their teams - win, or perish.
Group A sees both Brazil and Mexico up top with four points. Neither Cameroon or Croatia have a point to their names after opening day losses. And should one of these sides suffer a defeat tonight, then their tournament is officially over.
Brazil's goalless draw with Mexico was something of a bummer to the fans of the South American hosts, but it still put those two teams in pole position to reach the knockout stages. And that translates to a do or die game for Cameroon and Croatia here tonight.
More good news for the Vatreni comes in the form of Luka Modric. The Real Madrid midfield maestro was a doubt with a foot injury, but he's been ruled fit enough to start. Also coming back into the XI is Danijel Pranjic - the veteran ex-Bayern man slotting right into the left back position.
Croatia are surely thankful for the return of the big man up top, Mario Mandzukic. The Bayern Munich striker was banned for the tournament opener tuanks to a red card. In that game against Brazil, Croatia sorely missed his ability to battle central defenders and hold up the ball.
Eto'o has scored three and set up one of Cameroon's last four World Cup goals, and with him, quite literally, on the sidelines, a spot up front has opened up. And in something of a surprise, Pierre Webo has been beaten to a starting berth by Vincent Aboubakar, the striker from Ligue 1 club Lorient.
The big news for Cameroon is that Samuel Eto'o, their captain and all time leading scorer has not made the starting lineup. His troublesome knee injury was aggravated against Mexico, and he can only pass for the bench.
CROATIA SUBS: Eduardo, Jelavić, Gordon Sch, Vukojević, Badelj, Subašić, Vrsaljko, Vida, Kovačić, Zelenika, Brozović, Rebić.
CROATIA: Pletikosa, Pranjic, Perisic, Corluka, Lovren, Rakitic, Modric, Srna, Sammir, Mandzukic, Olic.
CAMEROON SUBS: Makoun, N'Guémo, Eto'o, Webó, Bedimo, Nyom, Nounkeu, N'Djock, Salli, Olinga, Feudjou, Djeugoue.
CAMEROON: Itandje, Assou-Ekotto, Nkoulou (c), Song, Moukandjo, Aboubakar, Choupo Moting, Chedjou, Mbia, Enoh, Matip.
Huge game for both these sides tonight, so let's get started by running through the team news.
Greetings everyone, and welcome to the Group A showdown between Cameroon and Croatia. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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