Croatia 4-1 Canada: Canadians crash out of World Cup with a heavy defeat
The bare facts of this unlikely grudge match were that the last of the laughs belonged to Croatia.
They were not “effed” by Canada, as John Herdman warned they would be, although they did suffer an early chill when conceding a goal inside 67 seconds.
Zlatko Dalic’s side fought back to score four and go top of Group F. In doing so they eliminated the Canadians, who lost their first two games here and their first five World Cup outings, equalling an unwanted record held by Bolivia.
They will hope to address that when they complete their campaign against Morocco, on Thursday, and will take lessons from the experience.
Among them, try not to wind up Croatia. It isn’t easy. England fell into the same trap in Russia, four years ago, where Luka Modric took offence at Football’s Coming Home and channelled it into a semi-final victory in Moscow.
This time, Dalic had accused Herdman of lacking respect when he found out the Canada boss from County Durham claimed to have told his players they belonged on this stage and would “eff Croatia” despite losing their opening game to Belgium.
It was delivered with a smile but one Croatian newspaper mocked up a picture of him, naked on the front page with maple leaves to cover his mouth and his private parts, demanding to know if he had the balls to match his trash talk.
Canada made an ideal start, taking the lead through their Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies with only 67 seconds on the clock. Davies sprinted diagonally into the penalty area from the left, dashed away from full back Josip Juranovic and sprang high to meet a cross by Tajon Buchanan.
His powerful header bounced down and into the net, Canada’s first ever goal in the World Cup finals and the fastest at this tournament so far.
Croatia, runners-up in Russia four years ago, were poor for half an hour. But they hit their stride before half time and started to cut open Canada’s defence.
Andrej Kramaric had a goal ruled out for an offside call against Hadjuk Split forward Marko Livaja in the build-up. Livaja was through on goal, against, moments later, only to find his low shot blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Milan Borjan, a Serb who was born in Croatia.
The pressure told, however, and the equaliser came nine minutes before half time. Ivan Perisic threaded a pass through the legs of Alistair Johnston, Canada’s right back expected to join Celtic from Montreal after the World Cup, and Kramaric applied a clinical finish.
Eight minutes later and they were ahead. Mateo Kovacic ran the ball forward, driving through the heart of Canada and found Livaja with a pass prodded between the legs of central defender Steven Vitoria. Livaja fizzed a shot inside the post from the edge of the penalty area.
Croatia should have extended their lead when Luka Modric scampered down the right and picked out Kramaric in front of goal, early in the second half. Kramaric made a sweet enough connection and must have thought he had his second of the game but ‘keeper Borjan made a fine save, diving to his right.