Croatia bounced back from the loss to Brazil in the first match of the 2014 World Cup by beating Cameroon 4-0. A huge piece that led to this massive victory was the comeback of Mario Mandzukic and his two goals. Mandzukic missed the first game due to a one-game ban off of a straight red in the qualifying rounds leading up to the tournament. Following this game, Croatia will play Mexico to see who will emerge out of Group A along with the presumed Brazil. It’s win or go home for both Mexico and Croatia. Mexico sits in second place with four points while Croatia sits behind them with three points.
Having Mandzukic back in the lineup was clearly meaningful for Croatia. He is a goal-scoring presence, and that is supported by his two-goal performance on Wednesday. Mandzukic opens up the whole field for Croatia and does not put all the pressure on the midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic. With Mandzukic working the point, the midfield does not have to work as hard as they did against Brazil. As well, Modric is not looked upon to be a goal scorer when Mandzukic is playing because he is not a pure goal-scorer; he is a playmaker, hence the No. 10 he was given prior to the World Cup.
Another upside for the Croatia team is how well Stipe Pletikosa played against Cameroon. After suffering miserably at the hands of Oscar and Neymar, he made a few saves but remained idle for most of the night. However, that is what you hope for when you’re a goalkeeper. You hope that the midfield and forwards keep the pressure off of the defensive backline, and that was evident for Croatia against Cameroon.
Croatia has a great shot at advancing in Group A. All Croatia and Niko Kovac need to do is beat Mexico. The objective is simple, but it will not be an easy task. Mexico are coming off of a huge draw to Brazil and a strong if not one of the best goalkeeping displays I have ever seen by Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa has always been excellent; the only reason he did not compete in 2010 was due a failed drug test. Four years later, he is set to demonstrate his dominance in goal. This will be an epic match and one that everyone should watch.
Collin Ruby is a Soccer Writer for RantSports.com, Follow him on Twitter @Collin_Ruby