CAMEROON 0, CROATIA 4 (WORLD CUP GROUP A)
SONG SEES RED AS CAMEROON FOLLOW SPAIN AND AUSTRALIA OUT OF THE WORLD CUP
Croatia scored four times as Cameroon racked up a record equalling red card tally at World Cup finals and crashed out of a tournament they were late to arrive at due to infighting over bonus payments.
Ivica Olic’s early goal set the Croats on their way before Alex Song was sent off for lashing out at Mario Mandzukic late in the first half. Ivan Perisic punished a poor goal kick by Charles Itandje to score a great solo effort while Mandzukic had the last word with a brace as Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions crumbled without injured striker Samuel Eto’o in the Manaus heat.
Veteran striker Olic’s early goal gave Croatia some breathing space in on a balmy Manaus evening but it was Alex Song’s red card, for lashing out at Mandzukic off the ball, that gave the Croats the killer advantage.
The wily striker had got in Song’s way as Perisic escaped up the left flank with the ball and the Barcelona midfielder should have known better as he lashed out with his elbow. Mandzukic went down and the referee saw enough to give Song his marching orders.
It was a grim decision for Cameroon who had control of the game but without offering much in the way of danger on the Croat goal.
Olic had come up from the left flank and offered Perisic a target to aim for when Mandzukic laid off the ball. One pin point pass later and Olic gratefully gobbled up the chance.
Song’s red card at the end of the first half was a massive blow to Cameroon’s World Cup hopes. It was their eighth at a World Cup finals (level with Argentina), and the third for a member of the Song family with Alex’s uncle Rigobert racking two others up at previous tournaments.
There was little time to Perisic’s solo run and goal after Charles Itandje’s poor 48th minute goal kick effectively finished off the Cameroonians.
Dario Srna hit a free kick over in the 59th minute as Croatia made the most of their man advantage with chances flying in later in the second half.
Mario Mandzukic, in the side instead of Nikica Jelavic after serving a one match suspension, had already spurned a 50th minute chance to seal victory, but it was only a matter of time before he got himself on the scoresheet as he rose unmarked to head in a corner in the 61st minute.
The goal mouth predator bagged another in the 73rd minute when he was presented with a tap-in after Itandje saved Eduardo’s shot.
A thoroughly beaten Cameroon had long been reduced to mainly long range shots but they didn’t seem to have the spirit to raise themselves to climb the mountain in Manaus.
They couldn’t even get a consolation goal as Benjamin Moukandjo missed a great chance with five minutes to go.
Ivan Rakitic spurned the chance to make it 5-0 during a counter attack when Olic’s pass was slightly too short for him to comfortably take a shot under pressure.
And Pierre Webo forced Stipe Pletikosa to tip his shot over before trying an outrageous overhead kick when the ball fell to him.
The Cameroon campaign had started with controversy over win bonuses and finally ended with a similar sour note when Benoit Assou-Ekotto clashed with his own team mate Benjamin Moukandjo in the final moments of the thrashing.