The first round of group-stage matches is in the books at the FIFA World Cup 2014, and now we turn our attention to the second lot.
The heat in Group A was turned up a notch on Tuesday evening, as Mexico managed an impressive draw with favourites Brazil, presenting both Croatia and Cameroon with a must-win scenario in their second game.
The silver lining for Cameroon is that they can't possibly get any worse than they were in the opener against Mexico.
Having lost their last seven World Cup matches on the trot, there's no real expectation or pressure surrounding the Indomitable Lions, who bely their nickname with every showing.
Per The Daily Mail, Samuel Eto'o could be risked, despite his injury, due to the gravity of the situation, but having him sit could, potentially, be a blessing in disguise.
They're strong, physical, combative and pose an excellent threat from set pieces. Against Mexico, they went close from a number of corners, and Eto'o was unlucky to hit the post.
In need of goals, Vincent Aboubakar could well get the call to lead their 4-3-3. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting looked great whenever he got the ball; Cameroon just need to force it into his feet far more often.
Croatia can consider themselves unfortunate to be in a position with no points, but this is tournament football: You've got to move on and focus on the next fixture.
Cameroon represent a side eminently more beatable that Brazil were, and Niko Kovac will welcome back star striker Mario Mandzukic—banned for the opener due to a high boot in their play-off victory over Iceland back in November 2013.
Mandzukic will allow the Vatreni to slow their buildup play considerably, to group around him and to not simply release quicker runners from the flanks like they did in Sao Paulo last Thursday.
"It will be tough in Manaus, where conditions are inhumane," Kovac told reporters ahead of the match, per The Star-Telegram. "It is important that we win ball possession, be patient and create opportunities."
Mateo Kovacic, should he play, won't stand to get too much more space on the pitch, but Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic may have hit the veritable footballing jackpot with the matchup on paper.
2 Tactical Clashes
During the opener, Cameroon's dreadful 4-5-1 formation left Mexico's Jose Juan Vazquez free to collect the ball, turn and distribute when playing Mexico; El Tri had a field day in possession and worked several excellent openings as a result.
Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar ripped the full-backs apart given time to pick their runs, and El Tri really should have been three or four goals to the good by the final whistle.
Croatia, with Modric and Rakitic deep, will absolutely destroy Alex Song and Co. if no pressure is produced. The two are elite playmakers, and not only will they be able to handle midfield runners from their African counterparts, they will also play-make from afar, too.
2. Off Mandzukic
Mandzukic is a figure you can rally around, and Croatia looked a little lost offensively without him at times in Sao Paulo last Thursday.
He and Thomas Muller had this wonderful connection at Bayern Munich where he'd filter wide, interchange and create space on the edge of the box. If Cameroon do sit deeper, he will be key—not just aerially, but also on the ground—to picking the lock.
He makes bad wingers look good, and in the case of Vatreni, that's a very welcome trait.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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