Arena Amazônia, Manaus
June 18, 2014; 23.00 BST
Cameroon and Croatia meet today in a match that is a must win for both sides if they are to have a shot of progressing beyond the group stages. After Brazil surprisingly drew with Mexico, Mexico seem like the other team which would climb out of the group stages successfully. Both Cameroon and Croatia have lost their opening match and don’t have a single point. Mexico and Brazil each have four points. A draw pretty much dooms both sides.
The conditions in Manaus – still humid despite the temperature having cooled since Italy’s 2-1 win over England on Saturday – could play a part in the outcome.
Croatia- Team News, Predicted Lineups and Tactics
Croatia lost the first match of the tournament rather unfairly, some would say. The first match itself, witnessed some shocking refereeing which saw a wrong penalty being given Brazil’s way and the European team also suffering from a wrongly disallowed goal. However, Croatia did not put up a very convincing show either. They registered four shots on target. With Mario Mandzukic missing, the European team looked unconvincing in front of goal. The trio of Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic also failed to inspire the team from the middle of the pitch.
Coach Niko Kovac would be happy as Mandzukic is eligible to start the game as he needs someone with a clinical nature to be present in front of goal and bury away chances. The present Bayern Munich player is exactly the man to do that. He will substitute Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic in the line-up.
The Croatian media was unkind to Inter Milan’s promising youngster Mateo Kovacic and claimed that he did not help his nation’s cause and also didn’t let Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric do so, as the duo sacrificed themselves for him. Kovacic is a natural playmaker but has mostly been employed as a regista for his club. He was seen playing as an attacking midifielder against Brazil with Modric and Rakitic both sitting a little bit behind and trying to weave their magic from there. From the conclusions made from that match, one would hope that Rakitic plays in an advanced position alone or alongside Kovacic.
One big blow for Kovac could be Luka Modric missing out the game. The Blazers wait on Real Madrid’s midfielder Luka Modric’s fitness as he damaged his foot in the 3-1 loss against Brazil. If he fails a late test, we could see young Marcelo Brozovic start the game. The former Spurs man did confirm that he is 100% fit, but Kovac would not want to risk his star midfielder if there are any doubts and want to save him for the later game.
The defence would be the same with Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko and Pletikosa in goal. Pletikosa would want to have a better outing, after not being particularly convincing in the first match.
Croatia should look to attack Cameroon from the beginning and exploit the African team’s weaknesses. One thing Kovac would want from his team is to put on a sustained performance through the game and to pressurize their opponents for at least 75 minutes.
Cameroon- Team News, Predicted Lineups and Tactics
The situation does not look very promising for Cameroon as their star player Samuel Eto’o will almost certainly not be part of Wednesday’s match. Eto’o played in the Mexico match despite a knee injury he picked up during the closing stages of the season and manager Volker Finke will be replacing him with Fenerbahce striker Pierre Webo. Eto’o has asked the footballing gods to have mercy on him and help him take his country forward. But it looks unlikely that they will and the former Barcelona, Inter and Chelsea man might end up missing the whole tournament.
Cameroon rarely threatened against Mexico apart from a Samuel Eto’o shot hitting the post; Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s free-kick going wide and Benjamin Moukandjo’s free kick being saved by Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper.
Cameroon should contain the threat offered by the Croatian midfield by pressing high and not allowing them any space which the likes of Rakitic and Modric can easily exploit. They should also contain the threat of Olic and Mandzukic by not giving any loose chances. We’ve seen Algeria organizing their game supremely well against Belgium and almost coming out of the game with three points. Mexico too, were very solid in their defence and midfield and restricted Brazil from scoring. Finke should ask his team to play an organized game and frustrate Croatia. This could result in the loss of concentration for the European nation and Cameroon could hit them on the counter and get the important three points.
Finke would be hoping that the likes of Song and Mbia could provide some flair from the middle of the pitch as they are certainly capable of it. Webo is a veteran of the game and has scored eighteen goals for his country. He would want this crucial match to be a place where he can deliver for his nation and have at least a shot at qualifying to the knockout stages.
Cameroon (4-3-3): Charles Itandje; Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Aurélien Chedjou, Nicolas N’Koulou, Dany Nounkeu; Eyong Enoh, Alex Song, Stéphane Mbia; Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Pierre Webó, Benjamin Moukandjo
- This will be the first ever game between Cameroon and Croatia. This is also Croatia’s first ever World Cup game against an African side.
- Cameroon have won only one of their 13 World Cup games against European sides (2-1 v Romania in 1990), drawing five and losing seven.
- Croatia have amassed six red cards in their last nine World Cups matches.
- Coatia have not won any of their last five World Cup matches (L3 D2), with their last WC finals victory coming in 2002 versus Italy (2-1).
(Facts via Opta)
Player to look out for: Ivan Rakitic (Croatia); Alex Song (Cameroon)
Match Prediction: Croatia 2 Cameroon 0