After both Cameroon and Croatia lost their first games of their 2014 World Cup campaign, the pair lock horns in the second match knowing a win is absolutely imperative.
While hosts Brazil are naturally the overwhelming favourites to top Group A, second place looks very much up for grabs, and a win for either side here would put it in the frame to qualify for the knockout stage.
Croatia fell foul to some extremely poor refereeing as they were toppled by the hosts in the very first match of the tournament. They impressed for long spells, though, and will fancy their chances against a Cameroonian team that failed to find any kind of rhythm in its 1-0 defeat to Mexico.
To ensure you don’t miss any of the action, here’s all the information you need on where to catch the match on the box and via a stream. We also take a look at how this clash is set to impinge on the tournament fortunes of both sides.
Date: 18 June
Time: 11 p.m. (BST), 6 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: ITV (UK), ESPN (US)
The obvious strength of this Croatia side comes in midfield, where it is blessed with some supremely skilled playmakers. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were both exceptional against Brazil, bossing the game for long spells and starving their opponents of the the ball with forensically accurate passing.
On the flanks too, the unrelenting energy of Ivica Olic and the clever movement of Ivan Perisic posed plenty of problems for the tournament hosts. ESPN’s Simon Curtis was very impressed with the Croatian setup:
Lively Croatia last night. Rakitic, Modric, Perisic, Srna, Lovren all showed up well. Made Brazil look a bit shambolic at times.— Simon Curtis (@bifana_bifana) June 13, 2014
Without Mario Mandzukic leading the line, Croatia did lack a cutting edge against the Selecao. But fear not, for the Bayern Munich man will return for this fixture, and he should provide a much better foil for Croatia’s intricate midfield players than Nikica Jelavic. Mandzukic is hard-working, physical and much more clinical in front of goal when compared to the Hull City man.
While Croatia will be able to welcome back their star centre-forward, Cameroon are set to be without their own for this vital clash. That’s after the Indomitable Lions’ captain, Samuel Eto’o, was ruled out of the game with an injury, as noted here by the World Cup’s official Twitter account:
That’ll be a major blow for Cameroon, who already looked like a team devoid of quality and leadership in their opening game against Mexico. The Africans fell to a 1-0 defeat in that one, but if it wasn’t for some fortunate refereeing decisions going in their favour, it could have been a much more embarrassing scoreline.
In truth, it’s difficult to see things getting much better for them here. Niko Kovac’s Croatia team performed very well against Brazil, and the return of Mandzukic will push it on to another level against the Africans. By contrast, Cameroon were lucky to only lose by one and will be fielding a depleted first XI.
Admittedly, we have seen a few shocks in the infancy of this World Cup, but it’s difficult to foresee one here. Croatia will keep the ball for long spells through Modric and Rakitic, and that will see Cameroon toil as the game wears on. Expect a comfortable Croatia victory.
Who will win?
A defeat for Cameroon would be devastating to their hopes of advancing from the group stage, and they would be left to reflect on another poor major tournament performance. By contrast, a win for Croatia would set up a mouth-watering final group game against Mexico, who already have three points on the board.
It looks set to be a straight fight between El Tri and Croatia for that runners-up spot in Group A, and given the big-game experience of the likes of Modric, Mandzukic and Rakitic, Kovac’s team has enough in its squad to make it to the last 16, setting up a clash against Spain, Chile or the Netherlands.