Croatia beat Cameroon, 4-0, on Wednesday evening and in doing so, set up a do-or-die fixture with Mexico on June 23 to qualify for the knockout stages in the FIFA World Cup 2014.
Ivica Olic stabbed home early on to give the Vatreni the lead, and just as the Indomitable Lions were growing into the game, Alex Song received a straight red card for elbowing Mario Mandzukic.
Goals flowed in the second half as a result, with Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic (two) notching to seal a comfortable win.
Formations and XIs
Cameroon lined up in a 4-3-3 again, but this time, it was without Samuel Eto'o. Vincent Aboubakar played alone up front, he but was joined by electric wingers and marauding full-backs at all times.
Croatia plumped for their regular 4-2-3-1 with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic at the base. Danijel Pranjic was restored to left-back, Sammir came into the No. 10 role and Mandzukic started up top.
Cameroon began in much better fashion than in their dreadful opener against Mexico, passing the ball quickly with purpose and direction.
Stephane M'Bia proved to be an inspired choice at right-back ahead of Dany Nounkeu, Allan Nyom and Cedric Djeugoue, with his surges forward a regular feature of the Indomitable Lions' style of play.
Aboubakar made strong runs from his centre-forward role, Benjamin Moukandjo looked lively with the ball at his feet and saw lots of it, while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was also far more influential.
Overall, a serious upgrade on their first match in terms of belief, tactics, style and competency. There were times where Dejan Lovren and Co. looked utterly terrified of the sight of Aboubakar running toward them with the ball in tow.
Croatia also favoured a right-sided approach, with Ivan Perisic—who was so influential against Brazil—pairing up with the rampant Darijo Srna to great effect.
The Vatreni sprayed balls quickly to the right flank three times inside the opening 12 minutes, and on the third attempt, it created Olic's stabbed goal to open the scoring.
The focus toward Srna and Perisic's side was so heavy that they essentially bypassed No. 10 Sammir in midfield. Despite playing in the prototypical "playmaker" role, he saw little of the ball and created nothing.
Instead, he acted as a more protective/physical layer ahead of Modric and Rakitic, chasing runners from deep and staying goalside of Cameroon's most advanced central runner.
Song's ridiculous red card just before half-time essentially ended the contest.
With Cameroon a goal down, a man down but also in need of points to stay alive, manager Volker Finke opted to play a holey 4-2-3 formation and retain three forwards at the expense of midfield solidarity.
From there, Modric and Rakitic took over, ensuring the pitch was nice and wide and spreading the ball around from flank to flank.
Perfect example of how to play against 10 men from Croatia. Quick passing, using the width, & players able to take others out the game.— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) June 18, 2014
Raking balls into the channels set the wide players away frequently, with Srna, Perisic, Olic and later Ante Rebic all steaming in on goal in the second half.
Mandzukic profited with two goals, while Perisic—the man of the match—bagged one too.
Cameroon become the third side to go out of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and have lost their last six games at the finals on the trot.
At the end of the match, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo began fighting—a deplorable scene that essentially sums up Finke's awful stay in Brazil.
Kovač: 'We weren't out best in the first 5-10 minutes, improved later. We let them have too many chances, we still have much potential left'— Aleksandar Holiga (@AlexHoliga) June 19, 2014
For Croatia, it's a must-win game against Mexico on the horizon, and what a game that will be.