It's crunch time for Cameroon and Croatia, who both lost their opening games of the World Cup. Lose again, and they could be on an early flight home. Our Cameroon expert Nathan Quao and Croatia guru Ivan Ivkovic go head-to-head in our latest expert v expert preview.
Nathan Quao on Cameroon: After failing to put up a good performance against Mexico in their opening match, things could get worse for Cameroon, as captain and star man Samuel Eto’o is struggling to be fit after suffering a knee injury in the team's match against Mexico. Eto'o has admitted to the press, "only a miracle" would get him a place in the team for the match on Wednesday. Should he miss out, another experienced forward in Pierre Achille Webo can be drafted in to provide goals. Midfielder Jean Makoun is another possibility for Finke to use in the middle of the park but his skill set is also as defensive as Alex Song and Eyong Enoh.
Ivan Ivkovic on Croatia: The biggest news is definitely the injury of Luka Modrić, who hasn't trained with the team for couple of days. It's a heel injury that's bothering him and although he will probably make the 11 vs Cameroon, he won’t be 100 percent. Additionally, the Croatian players are no longer talking to press because some photos of them naked at the pool got published nationwide. That was an unnecessary distraction, to say the least. Niko Kovač didn’t want to disclose the starting XI, but one thing is certain – Mandžukić is back in the squad after the suspension.
Nathan Quao: Cameroon threatened to find the net against Mexico but they could not and must try to find goals and a win in their second group match if they will stay in Brazil longer than it currently seems. They scored two goals in all in South Africa 2010 but the scorer of those goals, Eto'o, is facing a spell out, so Choupo-Moting and Webo must replace him well.
Ivan Ivkovic: During the game against the mighty hosts Croatia looked very good on occasions, as well as having some below average periods. The dubious penalty awarded to Brazil got the entire country convinced there is a conspiracy against a small nation like ours, but those kinds of reactions are to be expected from the public, but not from the players or the national manager, who was extremely critical during his post-game statement. Referees a side, Kovač will probablay have to rethink his decision and start with a typical holding midfielder, for that was one of the biggest problems against Brazil. The 3:1 defeat makes things somewhat difficult, for the goal-difference could be a factor. But first thing first, a victory over Cameroon is a must for us.
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Volker Finke on Cameroon: “We’re very disappointed with the result; I think we deserved a draw. There’s still all to play for, though, and we’re going to head into the Croatia match with the intention of winning."
Niko Kovač on Croatia: “We will play a possession game and look for dominance on the pitch. The team with higher possession will dictate the tempo and the one running around wildly can expect to lose stamina very early.”
Nathan Quao: If he recovers, Eto'o will command special attention. If he doesn’t, Alex Song becomes key. He may play in midfield but he has played at the highest levels of club football and Barcelona to know how to lead a team. His aggression in midfield will be important not only because it can help destroy the rhythm of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic but it can be the buzz Cameroon needs to face a quality side. Of course, the tackling must be more precise because it bordered on the reckless against Mexico but it is all in a bid to give Cameroon a fighting chance in the match.
Ivan Ivkovic: Ivan Rakitić. Having just confirmed a transfer to Barcelona, and after a brilliant season as a Sevilla captain, Rakitić is bound to step up. With Modrić doubtful for this match, and even with him on the field, Rakitić is the player with the best through ball and a killer touch in our team. A season in La Liga with double digits in both goals and assists proves he is a player able to make a difference. Against a side weaker than Brazil, it just might be the time for him to shine.
Nathan Quao: Even with Eto'o, the Lions could not find goals against Mexico and the trend could well continue against Croatia. Webo is still a good scorer but Choupo-Moting and Aboukabar or Moukandjo must do a lot more if they will score. It is difficult seeing where the goals will come from for Cameroon, especially as Croatia will look for a win to keep their hopes of progression alive. But they could just grab a consolation in a loss as Croatia showed a few doubtful areas against Brazil. Cameroon to score at 1.68 looks plausible.
Ivan Ivkovic: Ivica Olic not to play the whole match at 2.25. A player in his mid thirties, Olić will play in a game with extremely hard conditions predicted. Very rarely has Olić played the entire 90 minutes in the past couple of years for our side, only once during the Qualifiers to be exact. Considering his hard-nose playing style and the weather conditions, he is definitely a prime candidate to get substituted, especially now – with Mandžukić also on the pitch.
Nathan Quao: Croatia 3-1 Cameroon at odds of 16.00
Ivan Ivkovic: Croatia 2-1 Cameroon at odds of 8.00
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