Croats to bounce back from ref injustice.
Cameroon and Croatia were on either end of some dodgy refereeing decisions in their respective opening matches but both ended up with the same net result: nul points – so it’s do or die time in Manaus if either side is to qualify from Group A.
Cameroon’s campaign has appeared doomed from the start after a row over player bonuses before they even touched down in Brazil was followed up by a dispiriting performance against Mexico.
They have now been rocked by injury to star forward and captain Samuel Eto’o, who misses out with a knee complaint. Following their poor opening defeat this is news the Indomitable Lions could have done without.
Despite benefitting from two outrageously poor refereeing decisions, after Mexico’s Giovanni dos Santos inexplicably had two efforts wrongly ruled out for offside, Cameroon failed to take advantage of this good fortune.
If Volker Finke’s side benefitted, but failed to capitalize, from some inept officiating in keeping the score down against Mexico, Croatia were the victims of some ham-fisted refereeing in their opener against Brazil; decisions which did much to impact on the overall result.
However, unlike their next-up opponents, Niko Kovac’s men showed plenty of promise and look well placed to go toe-to-toe with the Mexicans for the runners-up spot in Group A at this stage.
Impressive performances from some of their big name players, including Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, new Barcelona signing Ivan Rakatic and the evergreen Ivica Olic bode well, while the Croats will be further boosted by the return from suspension of Mario Mandzukic, who should replace the ineffectual Hull City man Nicika Jelavic up front.
Question marks remain over veteran goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, who arguably could have saved all three concessions against Brazil, and better teams will look to exploit this area of weakness. Cameroon, however, are not one of the tournament’s better teams and although only beaten by a solitary strike against Mexico, they were dominated in their first outing and if anything the final 1-0 scoreline flattered the Africans.
Expect Croatia to start brightly as did they against Brazil and this time to see the job out. With that in mind Croatia HT/FT at 6/5 looks tempting, while Mario Madzukic is 4/1 to open the scoring.
The match kicks off at 11pm UK time on Wednesday, June 18th in Arena Amazonia, Manaus.