(Ivica Olic 11, Ivan Perisic 48, Mario Mandzukic 61, 73)
The return of Mario Mandzukic inspired Croatia to a 4-0 thumping of Cameroon in a Group A game yesterday.
The Bayern Munich striker missed the opening 3-1 defeat by Brazil after being sent off in Croatia's final qualifying match and had to serve a one-match suspension.
Croatia coach Niko Kovac lavished praise on Mandzukic who returned with two goals in the big win over Cameroon.
"Any coach would be happy to have such a player in his team. He is not just a goal-getter - his attitude picks the team up and affects the opposing side," Kovac said. "The fact he scored twice shows how important he is for this team and what kind of service the team can expect from him," he added.
Indeed, Kovac suggested the Brazil result could have been different had the 28-year-old powerfully-built striker played. "What is for sure is that with a player such as Mario this (result) would have looked different," he said.
Mandzukic said his suspension for the first game meant he had had time to do more training. "There is still room for progress and I'm very satisfied with this victory," the striker said.
Croatia's thumping win meant they will qualify for the second round if they beat Mexico on Tuesday (4am Singapore time).
That could be tough since the Mexicans looked impressive when holding hosts Brazil to a 0-0 draw. "We know what awaits us from the Mexican match. This is the final for us," said Kovac. "(They) are a very good, even excellent team, very aggressive, full of energy, they were capable of threatening Brazil."
Cameroon had Alex Song sent off and played poorly, a fact Kovac conceded. "Well, certainly Cameroon were not on top but we have to ask ourselves why they played in that way. I think it was down partly to my team. They showed they wanted to win and they deserved it," he said. "I don't want to belittle what our team did, they were excellent. Our team have the potential to be at par with the best." - Reuters.
Cameroon coach hits out at 'disgusting behaviour'
Cameroon coach Volker Finke said an on-field bust-up between two of his players during the team's abject 4-0 defeat against Croatia was "disgusting" and bemoaned a lack of discipline and effort by his players.
In the first half midfielder Alex Song was sent off for elbowing Croatia's Mario Mandzukic in the back and towards the end of the game defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted Benjamin Moukandjo after an argument.
The defeat in the Group A game confirmed Cameroon's exit from the tournament after a second successive defeat. "It's clear we have to find the reasons for what's going on because such behaviour is really disgusting, it won't do, it's impossible," Finke said when asked about the altercation.
"A result like this is a shame for Cameroon. I think until the red card it was a little bit of a match (when both teams played) at the same level, perhaps the Croatians were more efficient but Cameroon also had good some chances," he said. "We have to sleep and do an analysis and then we can announce something," he added, apparently referring to possible disciplinary measures after the unsavoury scenes. "There will be consequences stemming from this."
Finke also bemoaned the team's defensive indiscipline in the second half, when Cameroon conceded three goals, including one in the 48th minute. "I know it's hard to play 11 versus 10 but it's not necessary to lose control like that. The second goal was really too early. We had to try to play offensively as well, to stay in the match, and you risk having a result like that," he said.
Finke compared the game to the German match against Portugal which ended in a 4-0 defeat for the Portuguese after defender Pepe was sent off. "It was the same thing and exactly the same result. I'm sorry about this result," he repeated.
German-born Finke, who was only appointed to the job a year ago, was also questioned about his own future in charge of the Cameroon team. "I think you understand very well that one has to sleep at least one night after a match like that. I can't give a serious explanation to a question like that," he added.
Cameroon, beaten by Mexico last Friday, complete their World Cup with a last game against hosts Brazil on Tuesday (4am Singapore time). - Wire Services.
Bad to worse for Song
OUT: Alexandre Song gets the boot from Portugal referee Pedro Proenca. PHOTO: REUTERS
Alexandre Song's dismissal followed a disappointing season in Spain where his appearance time was limited for a second season since moving from Arsenal. Barca are expected to ship him on - if they can find a buyer.
Many will also question the 26-year-old's international future after the latest red as he followed in the footsteps of his uncle Rigobert who was sent off in both the 1994 and 1998 tournaments.
Song was banned for 18 months from the side after a bust-up with star striker Samuel Eto'o at the 2010 Finals where they lost all three group games. - PA Sport.
I'M SO SORRY
I'm very sad at the moment as I feel I have let my country and myself down. It was a stupid moment and I'm truly sorry. If I could do anything to take it back I would. Please forgive me.
- Cameroon's Alexandre Song