ZAGREB, Croatia, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Impressive 4-0 win against Cameroon with the record margin in the history of Croatia' s appearances at the World Cup sparked an explosion of optimism.
Everybody believes that Croatian team will get through to the knockout round for the first time since 1998. That was a year when Croatia won bronze medal, Davor Suker won Golden Boot Award and Miroslav Blazevic was named the Best Coach. He was more than pleased with the performance of the team under the leadership of Niko Kovac.
"For me they are all heroes but Kovac was the one who surprised me. His action showed how experienced he is even though he is the youngest coach at the World Cup", Blazevic said.
Kovac was praised for his decision to change sides for Ivan Perisic and Ivica Olic after the first 30 minutes because Perisic was more able to help defenders on the left side where Cameroon created some early chances. Of course, it was a side where Perisic picked the ball, ran 50 meters and scored to double Croatia' s lead.
"So far, Perisic was the best Croatian player. His improvement in the last seven months is extraordinary. He is a complete player who plays both defensive and offensive roles perfectly. All he needs was to play with this amount of self-confidence that he' s doing now", said former Croatia' s international Josko Jelicic.
Perisic could easily be the Man of the Match but that title went to Mario Mandzukic who scored Croatia' s third and fourth goals in his debut at the World Cup. Mandzukic showed how much Croatia missed his presence in the match against Brazil. His scoring skills and energy will be crucial for Kovac' s team on Monday in Recife against Mexico.
"Perisic, Mandzukic and Olic present a nightmare for any defense. All three of them go directly on goal and all have such an individual quality that they can decide the outcome against any team", said Matjaz Kek, the winner of the Best Coach of Croatian Premier League award in the last season.
Even though Croatia destroy Cameroon there is still some space for improvement and some doubts that Niko Kovac will have to deal with in the next few days when he will be preparing the team for the match against Mexico.
"Pranjic didn' t do a good defensive job on the left side. Sammir didn' t do much offensively in the midfield. For the game against Mexico there should be someone who will control aggressiveness of Mexican players, someone like Ognjen Vukojevic", Josko Jelicic said.
If Kovac opts for Vukojevic that would put Ivan Rakitic into a more offensive role, the same one that he played to perfection in Sevilla.
"Rakitic and Modric will have to be more involved offensively. That is the only way for Croatia to become even more dangerous", said Matjaz Kek.
The great Croatian night in Manaus will be remembered but it will have the real value only if Croatia beat Mexico in Recife. For Miroslav Blazevic there is no doubt that the match against Mexico won' t be the last for Croatian team in Brazil.
"I can see that players want to repeat what my team did in France in 1998. They will qualify for the second phase and then anything is possible."
On Monday night whole Croatia will be watching and waiting for another great performance of Kovac' s soldiers. So far, even when they lost against Brazil, they didn' t disappoint. Mexico will be another test of excellence for this generation. Against Cameroon Croatian players showed that they can excel when they need to.