Croatia 4 – 1 Canada

Croatia came from behind to knock Canada out of the World Cup with a 4-1 win in their Group F clash.

Alphonso Davies opened the scoring for Canada after just two minutes – with their first-ever World Cup goal on the fifth attempt – but two Andrej Kramaric goals either side of a Marko Livaja effort overturned the game. Substitute Lovro Majer then added a late fourth.

The highlights of the game…

  • 2mins: Alphonso Davies fires a home header to score a first World Cup goal for Canada.
  • 37mins: Andrej Kramaric squeezes in a deserved equalizer for Croatia.
  • 44 mins: Marko Livaja completes his comeback just before half-time with a precise drive from the edge of the box.
  • 70 mins: Andrej Kramaric gets his second of the game to increase Croatia’s lead.

This left Canada useless and heading home already ahead of their final group match against Morocco, their first venture into the tournament since the 1986 edition in Mexico having ended prematurely.

For Croatia, the win kept them top of the group. A point in their last game against Belgium on Thursday will be enough to see them progress.

Croatia comes to life as Canada crumbles

Croatian striker Marko Livaja celebrates after scoring against Canada
Croatian striker Marko Livaja celebrates after scoring against Canada

Canada’s big moment finally came after two minutes. Davies had seen a penalty saved in their first loss to Belgium but it was not to be denied again as he rose in the box to drive home a header from Tajon Buchanan’s cross – scoring the quickest goal of the World Cup so far.

There were question marks over Croatia’s energy levels after their draw against Morocco, but they showed all their experience to turn the tide before the break.

Alphonso Davies scores fastest World Cup goal so far to give Canada a 1-0 lead over Croatia
Alphonso Davies scores fastest World Cup goal so far to give Canada a 1-0 lead over Croatia

First it was Kramaric in the 37th minute, who latched on to a clever reverse pass from Ivan Perisic before finding the far corner from a tight angle. Then it was Livaja just before the break, as he collected a pass from Josip Juranovic before driving a precise finish inside the near post from the edge of the box.

In the 70th minute, Kramaric scored again to put the result beyond doubt, knocking down a cross from Perisic with a nice touch, before sending a weak effort into the bottom corner.

And in stoppage time, the icing on the cake was firmly added to the cake for Croatia as an error from Kamal Miller allowed Mislav Orsic to shoot on goal, before he set Majer to roll the ball into an empty net.

Player of the Match – Mateo Kovacic

Croatia's Mateo Kovacic, right, battles for the ball with Canada's Ismael Kone, left, and Canada's Alistair Johnston during the World Cup Group F soccer match between Croatia and Canada at Khalifa International Doha Stadium, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Kramaric will make headlines for his double but it was Mateo Kovacic’s energy and effort that brought Croatia back into this game. At first it looked like they couldn’t live with Canada’s legs, but his efforts to win the ball and his headbutts turned the game in his team’s favor.

Shined for so long for his country in a midfield alongside Luka Modric and now-retired Ivan Rakitic, it was a superb display.

What does the result mean?

The result puts Croatia top of Group F on goal difference ahead of Morocco, who beat Belgium 2-0 earlier in the day. These two teams are on four points, Belgium on three.

Canada is bottom of the group with no points and cannot progress.

Dalic says Herdman needs to ‘learn some things’ after avoiding handshake

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic shouts as he gives instructions from the touchline during the World Cup Group F soccer match between Croatia and Canada at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Doha Qatar, Sunday, November 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic:

“I didn’t see the other head coach after the game. Whether I lose or win, I always congratulate the other head coach.

“He wasn’t there and that’s his way. He’s obviously crazy. He’s a good coach, he’s a high-quality professional, but it will take time for him to learn some things.

“It will be a difficult match (against Belgium). It’s a World Cup, there are no easy matches. It will be a difficult match. Belgium must win, but we will also aim for victory.

“We won’t calculate, we won’t make any other plans. It will be a tough game.

“We need to rest, we need to prepare, we need to repeat what we showed here today, good football, quick and fast football, disciplined approach.”

Herdman: ‘We showed we can be competitive’

Canada's head coach John Herdman applauds at the end of the World Cup Group F soccer match between Belgium and Canada at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday 23 November 2022 Belgium won 1-0.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Canadian head coach John Herdman:

“I think we showed in those first 25 minutes that little old Canada can compete with the best in the world. We have shown that we can compete.

“We have a big game coming up against Morocco, a huge game for Canada in the sense that we have a lot to play for. We came here to make history, the first game they said they wanted to show that they were fearless and they did.

“The second game they said they wanted to score goals, if those goals were enough to win a game it would have been us with three points but it wasn’t. This last game is about getting a result and win for Canada.”

Canada can look back on historic World Cup run

Canadian Alphonso Davies celebrates after scoring his team's first goal
Canadian Alphonso Davies celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal

Sky Sports’ Dan Long:

Canada’s first World Cup in 36 years ended prematurely, but the performances of John Herdman’s side in Qatar will give hope that they won’t have to wait more than a quarter of a century for the next.

They were narrowly beaten by Belgium in their Group F opener earlier in the week and it gave them a confident start against Croatia which saw them take a shock lead with only two minutes on the clock.

It was their first-ever goal in a World Cup final and it was no surprise that starboy Alphonso Davies was the player to score it.

Croatia – runners-up in 2018, of course – looked nervous at first, but grew over the minutes and, in the end, proved too strong, too experienced and too big a barrier for the ranked side 41st in the world before a the ball was kicked.

Herdman had been optimistic ahead of the encounter, suggesting his side would be ‘F’ Croatia’ which apparently provided fuel for the Europeans. Two goals Andrej Kramaric hit back after the final whistle: “At the end of the day, Croatia showed who F’d who.”

There may be a lesson to be learned about choosing battles wisely, which Herdman and Canada will no doubt learn from as they seek to remain players on the world stage.

Post-match Opta stats

  • Croatia have avoided defeat in four of the last five World Cup games in which they have conceded the opening goal (W2 D2), with all five games having come since the start of the 2018 edition.
  • Canada have lost all five of their World Cup games to date – only El Salvador (6) have played more games in the competition while losing each time.
  • Ivan Perisic has been directly involved in 16 World Cup and EURO goals combined (9 goals, 7 assists), six more than any other Croatian player.
  • Atiba Hutchinson made his 100th appearance for Canada in this game, becoming the first player to reach this milestone for the men’s team.

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