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World Cup

  • June 18, 2014
  • • 23:00
  • • Arena Amazônia, Manaus, Amazonas
  • Referee: Pedro Proença
  • • Attendance: 39982
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Cameroon - Croatia Preview: Eto’o battles to be fit as Mandzukic returns

Cameroon - Croatia Preview: Eto’o battles to be fit as Mandzukic returns

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The striker had confirmed that he will sit out the match but now insists he will fight to be ready, while the Croats can bring back the Bayern Munich forward following suspension

By Sam Lee in Manaus

Samuel Eto’o is battling to be fit for Wednesday’s match between Cameroon and Croatia in Manaus, with both sides well aware that defeat would spell the end of their World Cup dreams.

Both Brazil and Mexico have four points following their draw in Fortaleza on Tuesday, leaving the losers in Manuas out of the tournament with zero points from two games.
 
Eto’o exacerbated a knee problem during the first-round defeat to Mexico, and the team doctor insisted he needed 10 days to recover. But the striker has been playing through the pain for the past three-four months, and says he will wait until the morning of the match to see if he can play.

                  Heaviliy strapped | Eto'o struggled through training on the eve of the match

If he does miss out, coach Volker Finke – or his four Cameroonian assistants - could bring in Pierre Webo or Vincent Aboubakar, or move Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting to the middle. It looks likely that Finke will stick with the three central midfield players from the first match, as they look to over-power Croatia’s creative but diminutive duo Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric.

Whatever happens, they will have to do better than in their first match when they managed just one shot on target – and that was in the 91st minute. Croatia should have Modric available despite the Real Madrid midfielder going to hospital with foot pain after the controversial 3-1 loss to Brazil. 
 
Mario Mandzukic will also be back in the line-up after serving a suspension against Brazil.
 
This will be the first ever meeting between the sides, and the first time Croatia meet an African team at the World Cup.
 
The conditions in Manaus – still humid despite the temperature having cooled since Italy’s victory over England on Saturday - could play a part in the outcome, although the local fans are sure to boo any slow or overly defensive play yet again.
 
And they may well have plenty to complain about considering the two teams’ World Cup form: in their respective last five matches at this level, Cameroon have lost every time and Croatia are without a win.

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Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Players to Watch
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 13
Games Goals YC RC
3 0 0 0
The Mainz man disappointed against Mexico but he is certainly one of his country’s most creative, direct players and could be the man to step into Samuel Eto’o’s boots on Wednesday. Only four Bundesliga players completed more dribbles (114) last season, despite 13 of his 32 appearances coming off the bench. He also scored three goals in the three warm-up matches in which he played, including in the 2-2 draw against Germany.
Mario Mandzukic
Mario Mandzukic
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 17
Games Goals YC RC
2 2 0 0
The 28-year-old could be leaving Bayern Munich this summer and he will be hoping to have more than two matches to show the world what he can do. If Croatia are to overcome the three-point deficit to Brazil and Mexico at the top of Group A then Mandzukic’s goals will be key. He top-scored in qualifying with a third of his team’s goals (4), and nobody in the top five leagues last season scored more headers (7). Combined with the fact that Ivan Rakitic created more chances from set-pieces than anybody in La Liga last season (45), it could be a winning formula.
Prediction
Cameroon weren't impressive in their opening match, and without Eto'o, it's difficult to see them take anything from a Croatia side who in the main looked good going down to defeat against Brazil on the opening day.
Editor's Prediction

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