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WORLD CUP: Canada scores first goal but eliminated with 4-1 loss to Croatia

Toronto Sun logo Toronto Sun 2022-11-28 Derek Van Diest
Canada's goalkeeper Milan Borjan concedes the second goal scored by Croatia's forward Marko Livaja. © Provided by Toronto Sun Canada's goalkeeper Milan Borjan concedes the second goal scored by Croatia's forward Marko Livaja.
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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — It took 36 years for Canada to get back to the FIFA World Cup, and only two games to be eliminated from it.

Canada became the second team to be knocked out of contention for the next round at the 2022 tourney — following the footsteps of host Qatar — with a 4-1 loss to Croatia in front of 44,374 here at the Khalifa International Stadium on Sunday.

It was a disappointing result for Canada, which played extremely well in its opener against Belgium this past Wednesday, but still lost.

Not being able to pick up at least a point in that contest proved to be the downfall for John Herdman’s men, who came to Qatar with high expectations after qualifying in style a top of Concacaf.

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Canada scored the first goal against Croatia — Alphonso Davies with a header in the second minute — but was then overrun by Croatia, the finalist from four years ago, which scored twice late in the first half to take over control.

“I think we had a great start and a proud moment for us all those fans in the stadium and people back home,” Herdman said. “We got to celebrate something that we’ve been waiting a long time for. I think their second goal turned the tide that close to halftime. We had to make tactical adjustments coming into the second half and that leaves you open.

“Then when you leave yourself open to a team like Croatia, they can make you pay on the transition and I thought they gave a master class on those transitional moments.

“But I’m proud of the lads. I thought they had their moments in the second half, at times, they had that control, we just couldn’t find that equalizer.”

Croatia striker Andrej Kramaric scored two goals in the win and then had some strong words for Herdman, who had revealed during the post-game, on-field huddle against Belgium, told his team they were going to ‘F’ Croatia.

The statement, understandably, didn’t go over well in Croatia and their national media jumped all over it, making Herdman the villain.

“I want to thank the head coach of Canada for the motivation,” said Kramaric, who was named player of the match. “I do believe he could have chosen better words to express himself. He could have formulated it a bit differently and Croatia demonstrated who ‘F’ed whom, that’s what we did.”

Despite having its good moments, Canada could not find a second-half equalizer against Croatia after giving up the lead. They then gave up a third goal with 20 minutes to go, which essentially ended the contest. A mistake by Canada defender Kamal Miller led to the fourth Croatia goal deep into second-half injury time.

“Allow me to congratulate my team on an extraordinary match,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. “This was a fantastic match. I did not see the other head coach after the match. When I lose or win, I always congratulate the winner and he was not there, I guess that’s his way of doing things.

“He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach, he is a high-quality professional, but it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

The loss leaves Canada without a point from its first two games, while Croatia and Morocco each have four. Canada will conclude its tournament against Morocco on Thursday, with only three points up for grabs.

Davies scored two minutes into the game to give Canada a 1-0 lead and hope of a massive upset to the thousands of fans who make the trip to Qatar.

Canada had 21 attempts on goal against Belgium and could not score, and then made men’s national soccer history by netting a goal on its first attempt against Croatia.

 Canada’s Alphonso Davies celebrates scoring his team’s first goal past Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images) Canada’s Alphonso Davies celebrates scoring his team’s first goal past Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Davies got to the end of a cross from Tajon Buchanan at the far post ahead of Croatia defender Josip Juranovic and powered a header past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The goal was historic for Canada, ending a 362-minute goal drought at the World Cup. Canada did not score in its only previous appearance at the tournament, losing all three games in 1986.

Croatia, which was held to a scoreless tie by Morocco earlier on Sunday, was rattled by the early goal and Canada had several opportunities to expand the lead, but was unable to take advantage.

Eventually, Croatia worked its way back into the game and began to find a rhythm.

Croatia thought it had tied the game in the 27th minute when Kramaric was put through and hit a shot past Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan, but the goal was called back offside.

Kramaric did get his goal nine minutes later when sent in by Ivan Perisic just inside the penalty area and slipped a shot past Borjan.

After giving up the tying goal, Canada seemed to struggle and found itself hemmed in its own end defending wave after wave of Croatian attacks.

Canada relented just before half time, as Josip Juranovic made a run at the heart of the Canada defence and even though it appeared he was stopped at the top of penalty area, still managed to poke the ball to Marko Livaja.

The Croatia striker had plenty of time to pick the corner on Borjan to put his team up 2-1.

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Canada made two substitutions to start the second half, inserting Jonathan Osorio and Ismael Kone into midfield for Cyle Larin and Stephen Eustaquio, who appeared to sustain an injury, or aggravated one, in the first half.

The move temporarily injected life in the Canada attack and Osorio came within inches of tying the game buy his shot from the top of the penalty area flashed just wide.

Moments later, Osorio started a move and found Buchanan at the top of the box, who slide the ball over to Jonathan David. His looping shot was tipped over the crossbar by Livakovic.

“We’ve had these moments before, we’ve been down in big games to Mexico, the United States,” Herdman said.

“We had to make a couple of tactical shifts, we put in (Ismael) Kone, you could see that excitement in his eyes when he was told he was coming in, and I think the biggest thing for me was just the pride of them pushing.

“I don’t think any of these lads turned away from that opportunity to push for that result even when we were 3-1 down.”

 

dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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