A brace from Mario Mandzukic helped Croatia rout 10 men Cameroon 4-0 at the Arena Amazonia on Wednesday to keep their Round of 16 hopes alive in the World Cup.
Cameroon launched a number of attacks in the initial phase and their first chance came in the first minute when Benjamin Moukandjo fired one in the side net. The Lions kept pressing for the opener, but the Croats, against the run of play, opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
Ivica Olic scored a close ranger on a perfectly weighted pass of Ivan Perisic to become Croatia's oldest goal scorer in the World Cup. Although, Croatia started the match slowly, a red card to Alex Song when he elbowed Mandzukic in the 40th minute changed the completion of the game.
Cameroon already a goal behind and down to 10-man couldn't stop Croatia from scoring three more in the second half. Perisic scored the second goal minutes into the second half, when his thunderous strike whistled into the goal.
Mandzukic, who missed a sitter on Brazil-born Sammir's pass earlier, made no mistake in heading home Danijel Pranjic's corner-kick in the 61st minute. Croatia made changes and brought Mateo Kovacic and Eduardo on the pitch, 20 minutes before the final whistle.
The duo set up fourth and final goal for Croatia, when Kovacic passed the ball to Eduardo and the former Arsenal striker forced Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itanjde to make a low stop. The ball went straight to Mandzukic and the 28-year-old made no mistake in putting the rebound in an empty goal.
"I had trained hard for this one so that I could put in a strong performance," Mandzukic said. "I should stress that this was a team victory, though; goals are the reward you get for great teamwork. I don't think we should get too obsessive about goals - the overall objective is winning the game, after all. There's still some room for improvement for this team."
Cameroon's coach Volker Finke said it was not easy to play with ten-man against the Croats, who displayed a clinical performance against them.
"It's a tough result to take. It's always difficult to play with ten men, but that's still no excuse for tonight's performance," Finke said. "There's no doubt that Croatia were more clinical in front of goal, but Cameroon also had chances to score. We need to move on and look to the future, because this team is full of promising players."
Croatia's boss Niko Kovac was pleased with his team's improved performance against the Africans, but warned his players that they are yet to play a crucial rubber against Mexico. A win against El Tri will put the Croats in the knockout round of the tournament.
"We didn't start the match well, but we improved by keeping possession of the ball a bit better," Kovac said. "We played in a very efficient manner tonight. Although Cameroon didn't play as well as they can, that was partly down to our performance. We have to put this victory to the back of our minds for now, because our hardest challenge is still to come. The match with Mexico is going to be our cup final."