MANAUS, Brazil -- Cameroon's World Cup hopes walked around Arena Amazonia here Wednesday night.Follow @SlamSports
In what could be his last World Cup, Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon's captain, its leading goal-scorer, said farewell to fans as his teammates warmed up. Nursing a knee injury, he couldn't participate.
So, his teammates played like it was over before it began.
For Croatia, everything went according to plan. Goals from Ivica Olic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic produced a 4-0 drubbing here Wednesday night -- a result that sets up a decisive game against Mexico next week to see who will advance.
While the West Africans weren't expected to make much noise in a group also containing the tournament host, they certainly weren't expected to be completely outclassed.
"I'm sorry for this result," Cameroon's German manager Volker Finke said after the match. "In the second half, our style of defending wasn't good. This is why we conceded four goals."
It wasn't much better in the opening 45 minutes.
After Olic buried a well-placed cross from Perisic just over 10 minutes in, the Indomitable Lions were still hanging on, though. A draw, after all, would have at least kept them in the competition.
But as has been the case with African sides so many times before, a silly sending off just before halftime more or less ended the tie.
It was bizarre, really. After watching his own teammates collide, Cameroonian midfielder Alex Song struck Croatia's Mario Mandzukic in the back right in front of the referee's eyes.
Call it a swan Song. Call it what you will.
That's when this game started to become suspicious for the neutral viewer.
"It hurts me," Finke said. "This is painful. It is difficult to play a man down, but it's unnecessary to lose control of the game."
Following the break, things became completely unravelled for a Cameroon side that didn't look like it belonged.
After assisting on Croatia's first, Perisic put the game to bed minutes into the second half after capitalizing on a mindless clearance from Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje.
Perisic raced in alone before cutting in from the left side of the box and beating Itandje at the near post.
Then it was Mandzukic's turn.
Having just returned from suspension, the Bayern Munich man rose to meet a corner on the hour to make it 3-0.
He was completely unmarked, raising even more red flags, especially when you consider the Cameroon national team fought its federation for funds prior to boarding a plane to Brazil a few weeks back.
"Our team imploded," Finke added. "That's very difficult at this level of the game."
Mandzukic added a fourth off a juicy, amateurish rebound from Itandje a quarter-hour from time in a match FIFA investigators might sniff around in the coming weeks and months.
Even before Song's sending off Cameroon were reactionary, its players walking on defence in multiple instances.
For Croatia, it was a walk in the park. The 4-0 finish didn't do them justice, if that makes sense.
In reality, it could have been far worse.
After witnessing Portugal and Spain drop stunning results in the early stages of this tournament, most thought those disastrous performances wouldn't be topped.
Then Cameroonian defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto headbutted a teammate seconds from the end.
"It's unimaginable," Finke said of his players fighting. "I saw it. I need to find why they exploded and behaved unexpectedly."
The tougher task will be getting Cameroon re-focused for its final match against Brazil next week.
Save a stunning result in that game, the Croatians will need to beat Mexico on Monday if they're to advance.
"I want to present another face of this team," Finke said. "We have to play (Brazil) 11 versus 11. This is about discipline. We have to prepare for Brazil seriously."
The question remains: Were the Indomitable Lions taking this game seriously Wednesday night?
FINKE UNDER FIRE
Cameroon head coach Volker Finke sauntered off stage following a post-game press conference that saw the German take an even worse beating than his squad.
Following Cameroon's 4-0 loss here at Arena Amazonia Wednesday night, Finke was hammered by the Cameroon press.
The 66-year-old, drenched from head to toe in sweat, was told he brought shame upon the West African nation.
"Cameroon put its trust in you," one reporter said, an interesting way to start a question.
Another asked when Finke would resign, saying maybe the players should take charge for Cameroon's final match versus Brazil. After all, Cameroon had already been eliminated.
"It's not for me to decide," Finke said. "It has nothing to do with me. I want to keep my head. Please give me a night's rest (before I answer these questions)."
He was accused of playing hurt players and that his player selection sucked.
"We have to look forward," Finke said. "There are players for the future."
That future likely won't include him.