Zagreb :It was a do or die match for both Croatia and Cameroon in Arena Amazonas and a convincing 4-0 Group A win kept Croatian dream of making it to the World Cup second phase quite alive.
Mario Mandzukic was back in Niko Kovac's squad Wednesday and he made his presence count, scoring twice and being elbowed on the back by Cameroon midfielder Alex Song that saw Song receive a straight red card in the 40th minute. That was more than enough to pick Mandzukic as a Man of the Match, reported Xinhua.
"Mandzukic's return to the team is very important for Croatia. The way he played is crucial for his self-confidence. It's a shame that he didn't score more because he had a few more chances," former Croatian striker Goran Vlaovic said.
Mandzukic scored his first goal at the World Cup in 62nd minute before he was on target again 11 minutes later.
Wolfsburg striker Ivica Olic broke the ice when he shot from close range 11 minutes into the match and Wolfsburg young gun Ivan Perisic made it 2-0 when he outpaced Cameroon's defenders to have a clinical finish.
Perisic's performance was also given thumbs up.
"He did everything in this match. He assisted, he scored and played his defensive role to perfection. He was one of the best on the field along with Croatia's captain Darijo Srna," said former Croatia international Robert Prosinecki.
Cameroon had its chances but it was Croatian players who could make this humid night in Manaus even more miserable for African team.
"This was a perfect night for Croatia; they've won without anybody getting injured or getting a yellow card that would prevent some defenders to play in the next match against Mexico. They played the right way in the second half to finish the job," Vlaovic said.
Even Luka Modric who just came back from injury, didn't have any problems with his foot so he stayed on the field for the whole match. This was another encouragement for Croatian team before the deciding group match against Mexico on 23 June in Recife.
Croatia will need a win to make it to the knockout phase for the first time after 1998 World Cup in France.
"Mexico don't have a big star but they are a very strong team. I expect both teams to play good and that we'll see a great match. If Croatians will play with the same intensity like they did against Cameroon, they will advance to the next round," said Prosinecki, a member of the team that took third place at the 1998 World Cup.
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