SALVADOR, BRAZIL - Cameroon's chances at World Cup glory might be doomed. Its most dangerous player's time at the tournament could be coming to an end.
Samuel Eto'o, a staple of the West African side for more than a decade, informed a Cameroon TV station Tuesday that a minor miracle will be the only way he takes part in Wednesday's Group A match against Croatia in Manaus.
After Mexico ripped through Cameroon late last week, that could spell the end for the perennial underachievers, who finish up group play against Brazil later in the week.
"I am hoping the gods grant me a miracle and that I am able to defend my dear, beautiful country," Eto'o said. "If this is not the case, I will always play my role as captain and especially as the big brother to push my young teammates to victory.
Eto'o is still labouring after a knee injury cut short his Premier League season with Chelsea.
He says he still needs more time to recover.
"For three-and-a-half months I have not had the time to recover. You could see that even in the build-up to the World Cup I hadn't had a lot of practice until the friendly against Germany."
While Eto'o's revelation could be the death of the Indomitable Lions, Croatia looks set to get a new lease on life.
After being suspended for the World Cup opener, Croatian's Mario Mandzukic will make his tournament debut Wednesday. The Bayern Munich striker will add that extra bit of quality up front that Croatia lacked in an opening 3-1 loss to Brazil.
Luckily for Cameroon there might be a great equalizer. Conditions in Manaus could favour an African side that's more accustomed to playing in horrific -- hot and humid -- conditions in the rainforest.
Temperatures are expected to jump up to 31 C before factoring in the humidex.
Who was it that picked the Algerians to advance from Group H?
OK, I realize there's a long way to go, but that pick isn't looking so ridiculous following a 2-1 loss to World Cup dark horse Belgium on Tuesday.
And while it still might not come to fruition, nobody can say the North Africans don't belong in this tournament.
This is an Algerian side that has players plying their trade all over Europe.
They're hard in defence, organized and no longer play the stagnant, defensive-minded stuff we witnessed four years ago in South Africa.
Furthermore, there isn't a player on the field for Algeria who isn't willing to sacrifice himself for a tackle or a block.
Bosnian manager Vahid Halilhodzic also has the Fennec Foxes playing more inventive soccer.
On Tuesday, they were in a defensive shell after the break, the curse of going up early against a European power.
Expect Algeria to take more risks in its next two group games against Russia and South Korea. Taking more risks is what led to the Algerians going up a goal from the penalty spot midway through the first half.
They were also fantastic in their pre-World Cup friendlies, something you can only come to learn if you ignore UEFA bias and give other teams the time of day.
To sum it up, it's no surprise Algeria came close to taking points off Belgium in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
LESSONS IN SCALPING
Standing on a street corner outside a stadium scalping tickets is for suckers.
You're familiar with those greasy-looking swindlers who are looking to sell you a set of seats for twice the price?
Nobody wants to deal with someone whose solicitation screams "I'm trying to rip you off."
In Brazil, you don't have to. At least that's the case at the Salvador airport, where tens of thousands of wealthy tourists are looking to pick up extra games they weren't awarded in FIFA's original lottery process.
In Salvador, beautiful women parade around with cardboard signs that make it known which games their distributors are selling.
That's called the hook.
The man who possesses the tickets follows closely behind, waiting to jump in when their partners are flagged down.
And then, voila!
A deal is made.
CANADIAN REF REWARDED
Canadian assistant referee Joe Fletcher has been assigned Wednesday's Spain-Chile Group B match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, a do-or-die fixture for the defending World Cup champions following their opening loss to the Netherlands.
Fletcher, a Niagara Falls, Ont., native, was judged to be near-flawless in his first World Cup game, Colombia's 3-0 defeat of Greece.
His North American crew helped restore sanity following a plethora of early-tournament refereeing gaffes that briefly marred the tournament in controversy.
Major League Soccer referee Mark Geiger (U.S.) will be the head referee for Wednesday's match, with U.S. assistant referee Sean Hurd running the touch line opposite Fletcher.
Referees that perform well at this tournament are typically awarded more high-profile matches.
Spain-Chile is a tilt many pundits pegged before the tournament to produce fireworks.