Why Niko Kovac Is Under Most Pressure for Croatia Following Win vs. Cameroon

Sasa IbruljCorrespondent IJune 19, 2014

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Head coach Niko Kovac of Croatia looks on from the sideline during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Croatia cruised past Cameroon as they recorded their biggest World Cup win with a 4-0 triumph.

However, the fact that the team had few problems throughout the match could end up being a double-edged sword for manager Niko Kovac.

The celebrations on the streets of Croatia were long and loud, and Thursday's newspapers illustrated the atmosphere in the country perfectly.

With few exceptions, the Croatian media praised the team for their fantastic performance, branding the victory over Cameroon a historic one, but there were few mentions of the flaws which the national team once again displayed.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 18:  Mario Mandzukic of Croatia controls the ball as Nicolas N'Koulou and Joel Matip of Cameroon give chase during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Croatia at Arena Amazonia on June 18, 2014 in Manaus
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The fact is that Croatia outplayed a 10-man Cameroon team and completely deserved the win. The return of Mario Mandzukic from suspension improved their performance and Ivan Perisic played great again.

Ivica Olic, meanwhile, again proved that he is far from ready for retirement, despite suffering a bad cut earlier that day.

But, at the same time, there is no escaping the fact that Cameroon were nothing short of awful in their display.

Their performance against Croatia was the worst by any team in this tournament, and they looked reserved and indifferent for most of the match.

Despite the big win, the 90 minutes raised some important questions for Kovac which were disguised by the final outcome.

Croatia had opened the match with nerves and panic on display, and they struggled on the left side, especially where Danijel Pranjic had replaced Sime Vrsaljko.

Until Alex Song was sent off, Cameroon were an evenly matched team, even in midfield where Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic were expected to give Croatia an edge. The inclusion of Sammir raised some eyebrows and his performance was not even close to convincing.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 18:  Head coach Niko Kovac of Croatia reacts during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Croatia at Arena Amazonia on June 18, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

But all of this was well camouflaged by the efficiency shown in front of the Cameroon goal, and the comfort of this victory could become a problem for Kovac as he prepares for the final group game against Mexico on Monday.

In Croatia there is no place for anything between dreadful and brilliant, and the whole country is in a state of euphoria after the dominant win over the African side.

Fernando Llano/Associated Press

However, this will undoubtedly pile even more pressure on Kovac and his team, who are now expected to defeat Mexico and reach the knockout stage.

The most important task for Kovac will be to calm the atmosphere and not to allow his team get caught up in the fervor back home.

Croatia took a huge step forward by beating Cameroon, building a foundation for the decisive match against Mexico—but Monday's clash in Recife will be completely different.

Kovac must now ensure that his team stays focused and resolves the weaknesses that were on display against Cameroon.

It will not be an easy job for Kovac, but it will be necessary to steer Croatia in the right direction.