For Croatia, a win on Wednesday against Cameroon was vital. And boy, did they get one in style.
The Croatians dominated their foes, winning 4-0 behind big performances from Mario Mandzukic (a brace) and Ivan Perisic (a goal and an assist). Not surprisingly, Twitter was buzzing about the performance from the star Croatians.
Perisic was the star in the early portion of the game. After setting up Ivica Olic's tap-in goal with a lovely cross in the first half, Perisic picked up a turnover in midfield and galloped down the pitch in the second half. He feinted another cross, causing Cameroon keeper Charles Itandje to lean to his left, before ripping home a near-post goal to give Croatia a 2-0 lead.
But it was the run that had Iain Macintosh of ESPN cracking jokes:
My favourite bit about that Perisic goal is the way his tongue was hanging out like a springer spaniel in the park.— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) June 18, 2014
Cracks aside, Perisic had a brilliant game. Both ESPN Stats & Info and WhoScored.com put it into perspective:
Ivan Perisic: Becomes the 6th player in this World Cup to register both a goal and assist in a single match #cro— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 18, 2014
A few minutes before he was subbed out of the game, Squawka Football put his performance into a different perspective:
But the Man of the Match was probably Mandzukic. He earned a brace. He made a crucial run that helped set up the first goal. And he was the unfortunate punching bag for Alex Song at the end of the first half that earned the latter player a red card and completely changed the game.
ESPN FC passes along the video of Song's unfortunate meltdown:
While you can see why Song was frustrated—Mandukic clearly cut him off as the two ran down the pitch—his reaction was absurd, as Andy Glockner of The Cauldron tweeted:
That kind of sucks. Live, I saw Mandzukic setting the moving screen, but you can't karate chop him.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) June 18, 2014
But Mandzukic was far more than a heavy bag. His brace was a historical one, per OptaJose:
1 - Mario Mandžukić is the first #CRO player to have scored a brace in the World Cup history. Killer.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 18, 2014
And boy, was his performance quite efficient, per WhoScored:
Behind the strong performances from Mandzukic and Perisic, Croatia are now in a position to advance to the knockout phase. A win versus Mexico will automatically see them through, while a draw against El Tri and a Brazilian loss would also do the trick (though after looking like the poorest team in the tournament after two games, it's hard to see Cameroon beating Brazil).
Croatia will take confidence in the fact that they not only dismantled Cameroon but they also played Brazil tough and were given a tough break when Fred was awarded the softest of penalties. Add in the fact that Mandzukic was suspended for that match, and Croatia will feel very positive heading into the final group match against Mexico.
But they'll certainly need Mandzukic and Perisic to step up for them again.