Croatia kept their World Cup ambitions alive by sweeping 10-man Cameroon aside 4-0 after Alex Song’s red card.
They now have three points in Group A, behind Brazil and Mexico on four, but the Africans are eliminated. Croatia will now face Mexico in a head-to-head for qualification.
The Indomitable Lions were without captain Samuel Eto’o due to a knee injury, so Vincent Aboukaber stepped in. Luka Modric shook off a bruised foot to start, but Croatia dropped Inter midfielder Mateo Kovacic.
It took just 11 minutes for Croatia to take the lead, as Ivan Perisic completed a well-worked team move by rolling across for Ivica Olic to tap in at the back post.
Perisic should’ve made it 2-0, but fired straight at goalkeeper Charles Itandje’s leg from four yards.
Cameroon were playing better as the half wore on, but shot themselves in the foot with a terrible lack of discipline.
Barcelona midfielder Alex Song was running off the ball when he struck Mario Mandzukic in the back with his elbow. Referee Pablo Proença witnessed this very obviously purposeful gesture and did not hesitate in flashing a red card.
Things got worse for Cameroon, as straight after the restart Perisic doubled the advantage. Itandje’s goal kick was intercepted by Perisic, who burst down the left and smashed an angled drive across the ‘keeper.
Mandzukic fired wide when sent clean through, but he did get his goal eventually with a completely free header from a corner.
Juventus transfer target Mandzukic added a fourth and completed his brace, as substitute Kovacic set up Eduardo for an angled drive that was palmed into his path. It was a great start to the World Cup for the Bayern Munich forward, who was suspended for the opener with Brazil.
Benjamin Moukandjo ballooned off target in a late opportunity for a consolation goal, as did Ivan Rakitic at the other end, but Pierre Webo’s header thumped the crossbar.
In a sign of where things have gone wrong for Cameroon, teammates Assou-Ekotto and Moukandjo had to be separated after getting into an argument.
Cameroon 0-4 Croatia
Scorers: Olic 11 (Cr), Perisic 48 (Cr), Mandzukic 61, 73 (Cr)
Cameroon: Itandje; Matip, Nkoulou, Chedjou (Nounkeu 46), Assou-Ekotto; Song; Choupo-Moting (Salli 75), Enoh, Mbia, Moukandjo; Aboubakar (Webo 70)
Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Pranjic; Rakitic, Modric; Perisic (Rebic 78), Sammir (Kovacic 72), Olic (Eduardo 69); Mandzukic
Ref: Proença (POR)
Sent off: Song 40 (Ca)