Croatia jumped back into contention in Group A play at the World Cup on Wednesday, as they defeated Cameroon 4-0 at Arena Amazônia in Manaus. Ivica Olic opened the scoring in the 11th minute, as he slotted home Ivan Perisic's cross. The goal came against the run of play, as Cameroon controlled the opening minutes but couldn't get a shot on target.
From then on, however, Croatia fully directed the proceedings, and matters only got worse for Cameroon just before the half, as Alex Song was shown a straight red card in the 40th minute after recklessly striking Mario Mandzukic in the back in the midfield.
Perisic doubled Croatia's lead in the 48th minute, taking the ball on the right side of midfield, dribbling downfield past Cameroon defender Dany Nounkeu and beating goalkeeper Charles Itandje on a strong individual effort. Mandzukic then added a tally of his own in the 61st minute when he found space in the box and headed Danijel Pranjic's corner kick in.
Mandzukic picked up his second goal 12 minutes later, after Itandje blocked Eduardo's shot, and the Bayern Munich striker finished with a simple tap-in off the rebound.
CROATIA BOUNCE BACK FROM TOUGH LOSS: The Europeans had the toughest draw to open the tournament, facing hosts Brazil in the opening game of the World Cup, and were ultimately unfortunate to lose 3-1 in that game, when they played Brazil pretty closely. If there were questions about Croatia's ability to shrug off the loss, they answered them, in thorougly dominating an out-of-sorts Cameroon. Most notably, the attack truly got going, with midfield stars Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic driving the attack but not actually scoring themselves. The result? Croatia's final group stage game, against Mexico, will be must-see TV, as it will determine which team advances to the knockout round.
CAMEROON ADD TO RED CARD TALLY: According to ESPN, Cameroon have the most red cards of any team in the World Cup over the last 24 years. With Song's ejection, the Indomitable Lions have picked up eight red cards in 19 World Cup matches stretching back to Italy 1990. Adding insult to injury, Song is the second member of his own family to be sent off at a World Cup, joining cousin Rigobert Song, who was sent off twice, in 1994 and 1998.
AND CAMEROON STARTED FIGHTING ... EACH OTHER: Late on in the game, Benoit Assou-Ekoto and Benjamin Moukandjo came to blows on the field, while the entire world was watching. The pair began arguing, with Assou-Ekotto eventually head-butting his teammate and Moukandjo pushing him back. It appears the World Cup can't end quickly enough for the African side.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ivan Perisic, Croatia -- They may have poured it on late, but Perisic was firmly involved in Croatian success early, and his goal to put them ahead 2-0 was an impressive individual feat, especially in the much-discussed Manaus weather.