Samuel Eto’o is battling to be fit for Wednesday’s match between Cameroon and Croatia in Manaus, with both sides well aware that defeat would spell the end of their World Cup dreams. Both Brazil and Mexico have four points following their draw in Fortaleza on Tuesday, leaving the losers in Manuas out of the tournament with zero points from two games. Eto’o exacerbated a knee problem during the first-round defeat to Mexico, and the team doctor insisted he needed 10 days to recover.
But the striker has been playing through the pain for the past three-four months, and says he will wait until the morning of the match to see if he can play. If he does miss out, coach Volker Finke or his four Cameroonian assistants could bring in Pierre Webo or Vincent Aboubakar, or move Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting to the middle. It looks likely that Finke will stick with the three central midfield players from the first match, as they look to over-power Croatia’s creative but diminutive duo Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric. Whatever happens, they will have to do better than in their first match when they managed just one shot on target and that was in the 91st minute.
Croatia should have Modric available despite the Real Madrid midfielder going to hospital with foot pain after the controversial 3-1 loss to Brazil. Mario Mandzukic will also be back in the line-up after serving a suspension against Brazil. This will be the first ever meeting between the sides, and the first time Croatia meet an African team at the World Cup. The conditions in Manaus – still humid despite the temperature having cooled since Italy’s victory over England on Saturday - could play a part in the outcome, although the local fans are sure to boo any slow or overly defensive play yet again. And they may well have plenty to complain about considering the two teams’ World Cup form: in their respective last five matches at this level, Cameroon have lost every time and Croatia are without a win.
This will be the first ever game between Cameroon and Croatia.
This is also Croatia's first ever World Cup game against an African side.
Cameroon have won only one of their 13 World Cup games against European sides (2-1 v Romania in 1990), drawing five and losing seven.
Cameroon have only won one of their last 14 World Cup games (1-0 v Saudi Arabia in 2002), drawing four and losing nine.
Cameroon have lost their last five World Cup matches; the longest losing streak of any African nation at the tournament.
The Indomitable Lions have scored just seven goals in their last 12 World cup matches, and never more than once during this run.
Croatia will have Mario Mandzukic available for selection for the first time in this World Cup finals tournament. No player scored more headed goals than the Bayern Munich striker in the top five European leagues in 2013-14 (7).
Cameroon only attempted one shot on target in the whole of their opening group stage game against Mexico and this came in the 91st minute.
Cameroon have played 21 World Cup matches overall and their one shot on target tally against Mexico in the opening game was the fewest they've ever mustered in a WC finals match.
Croatia have not won any of their last five World Cup matches (L3 D2), with their last WC finals victory coming in 2002 versus Italy (2-1).