Manaus: Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions must improve on a toothless display in their opening match when they face Croatia in the hot and humid Amazon city of Manaus in Group A on Wednesday while having to cope with the loss of pack leader Samuel Eto’.
The four-time African Footballer of the Year has been ruled out of the clash due to a knee injury.
Cameroon, who lost 0-1 against Mexico in their opener, are seeking their first World Cup win since 2002.
Their next opponents Croatia, who have failed to reach the knockout stage since an impressive third-place finish in 1998, are also fighting for survival after losing their opener 1-3 against Brazil.
Croatia have their own problems as inspirational playmaker Luka Modric faces a race against time to recover from a foot injury he sustained in that match.
Coach Niko Kovac was confident he would have Modric available and welcomed the return of suspended striker Mario Madzukic, who will reclaim his spot from Nikica Jelavic to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
“Modric is getting better and I think he will be fit to play while having Mandzukic back is a real bonus because he is aggressive and able to pull the whole team forward,” Kovac told reporters in the team’s Praia do Forte base.
“His approach can scare Cameroon and help Croatia.”
Initial outbursts over a contentious penalty to Brazil with the score 1-1 quickly gave way to pundits’ criticism of Kovac’s tactics as Croatia sat back after taking an early lead and the 42-year old coach promised a more adventurous strategy against the Cameroonians.
“It was hard to come forward against Brazil but this game will be a different story because I expect us to have more possession and dominate,” he said.
“Purposeful running will be the key because of the weather. As we saw in a high-tempo England versus Italy game and one of superb quality, both sides wilted after 70 minutes in the unbearable heat. “It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t get past the group stage but I want to think positively and believe that we can make an impact.”