FINAL: Cameroon 0 - Croatia 4 (Olic 11', Perisic 48', Mandzukic 61', 73')
This -- this did not go well for Cameroon.
Without star striker Samuel Eto'o, it was already an uphill battle for the Cameroonians. Then Alex Song was given a red card in the first half, forcing them to face a hungry Croatia squad with just 10 men.
And Croatia took full advantage.
It was mostly target practice for the Croats, who seemingly lived in the Cameroon box. Mario Mandzukic was back with a vengeance -- he was forced to sit the first game due to two yellow cards in the qualifiers -- scoring two goals.
Now the real challenge begins for Croatia. A win next week against Mexico, who has not yet been scored upon, will give them a spot in the knockout stage. And, thanks to their four goals today, a tie would get them through in the event Cameroon beats Brazil -- which will probably not happen, but still.
So it's pretty clear-cut for Croatia: Beat Mexico and you're through.
The blow-by-blow of Wednesday's game is below.
89' -- It's just not gonna happen. Cameroon with a great chance, but Webo's header rings the post. And Cameroon's players are fighting. Let's just go home.
88' -- Rakitic has a go for Croatia but his chip rolls wide.
85' -- Awwww. Cameroon's best chance of the night, but Moukandjo's shot sails just wide.
83' -- Croatia not letting up, but they've been unable to convert on any of their numerous recent chances. End this thing already.
73' -- Goal, Croatia. Some fancy footwork on the edge sets up a shot, and Mandzukic is there to bang home the rebound. It has gotten ugly.
69' -- Pretty good strike from Jean Makoun, but Cameroon still struggling to put any pressure on Croatia.
65' -- Rare chance for Cameroon but the corner is wasted. Croatia comes right back on the attack.
62' -- Goal, Croatia. Yeah it was coming. Mandzukic buries the header off a corner.
61' -- Target practice continues. It looks like it will be a rough 30 minutes for Cameroon.
57' -- The last five minutes have basically been the soccer equivalent of batting practice. Just shot after shot -- Croatia is dominating possession.
52' -- Decent volley opportunity for Cameroon, but Dany Nounkeu sends it well high.
50' -- I'm not sure how, but Mandzukic didn't score just now. One-on-one with the keeper and some pressure on his back forces a wayward shot.
48' -- Goal, Croatia. Just a bad clearance picked up by Ivan Perisic and he takes it down the field and scores. Cameroon doesn't have their collective head in this one right now.
46' -- Great early chance for Sammir of Croatia, but his shot leaves a bit to be desired.
Halftime: No real fluidity in the first half, that's for sure. Lots of excitement to start, and Croatia capitalized while Cameroon failed to produce a really solid chance. And things will only be more difficult for them in the second half, now that they'll be a man down.
45' -- Cameroon generates a decent chance, but Vincent Aboubakar's shot has zero pace, and it was wide anyway.
40' -- Just an absolutely awful couple seconds for Cameroon. First a decent cross is wasted because two players collide trying to play the ball.
Then Alex Song punches Mandzukic in the back. Red card. Cameroon will have to forge a comeback with 10 men.
39' -- Unrelated to most everything, but I don't think this is legal.
36' -- Shaky (read: bad) play from Cameroon keeper Charles Itandje results in a corner for Croatia. He jumped and, like, didn't catch the ball but instead knocked it out of bounds. For you kids at home, um, don't do that.
34' -- Cameroon gets a decent chance but Mbia's shot is deflected to the keeper.
33' -- Couple chances generated by Croatia, but nothing of substance. Cameroon seems to be struggling to find a rhythm.
28' -- Pretty messy in the last several minutes. Neither team able to maintain possession. Everyone just sort of kicking it to no one in particular. This is a bad approach to soccer.
21' -- Stéphane M'Bia has a go but it sails wide into the side netting. Game opening up for Cameroon.
18' -- Cameroon gets their first chance in what seems like ages. Cleared easily.
16' -- A change from the early action, as Croatia is now dominating possession and piling up chances. earn another corner that is SOMEHOW kept out of the net. Mandzukic and Olic both had clean looks.
14' -- Another try for Mandzukic, another shot sailing well clear of the goal.
11' -- GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL Croatia. Ivica Olic pounds home a perfect cross. Lots of clever passing in the box set it up. Great goal.
8' -- Mandzukic gets an early try but he's a bit too amped. Too high and too hard.
4' -- Early corner wasted for Cameroon. Plenty of action to start.
Both sides appear to be in line for also-ran status to Mexico and Brazil, but a win by either side could make the group stage's final day quite interesting. Cameroon was blanked by Mexico in their first outing, while Croatia lost 3-1 to Brazil.
Croatia will get a huge boost with forward Mario Mandzukic in the lineup. He missed last week's game due to yellow cards in qualifying matches.
Croatia vs. Cameroon (Group A) | Kickoff: 6/18, 6 p.m. ET | Stadium: Amazonia, Manaus
Match Preview: With Brazil and Mexico playing to scoreless draw Tuesday, either Croatia or Cameroon will need a definitive result to have a shot to move through to the knockout stage.
To be sure, both teams are facing an uphill battle.
Cameroon was beaten 1-0 by Mexico last week, and they'll be without striker Samuel Eto'o for Wednesday's match. Eto'o has a lingering knee injury that will prevent him from playing.
Croatia had a solid showing against Brazil in the Cup's opening game, though they lost 3-1. Still, Croatia got on the board first and pushed the tempo early in the match, giving Brazil quite a scare in front of their home fans.
If either Croatia or Cameroon can come away with a win they'll have at least a chance at moving through. A draw pretty much dooms both sides.