After the earlier result where Morocco stunned Belgium with a 2-0 result, Group F was wide open at the kick off for Croatia vs Canada where every team could qualify or be eliminated. After a narrow loss to Belgium in a game they had dominated, if Canada could pull off a win against Croatia they would be writing their own chapter in the book of upsets this World Cup has been so far.
At the end of the Canada vs Belgium game the Canadian coach John Herdman was heard talking to his team in a huddle. After the strong showing against Belgium he said that the next mission for his squad was to “eff Croatia.” The ensuing controversy and perceived disrespect in Croatia was splashed on the front pages of a number of media outlets. Would the controversy fire up the Croatians who had looked flat in their stalemate against Morocco?
The game started with a flurry from Canada and after only 60 seconds, Alphonso Davies met a Tajon Buchanan cross with a thumping header to put the Canadians ahead. This was Canada’s first goal at a World Cup finals. Canadian hearts were rising.
It took until the thirty minute mark for Croatia to start to exert pressure. Milan Borjan made an excellent save only to have Andrej Kramarić tie the game on a nicely taken goal. It looked like the Croatians were going to take the game to the Canadians while Canada looked like they were starting to crumble under the pressure. It was a Marko Livaja shot that snuck into the corner which turned the game on its head. Croatia continued to pile forward and Canada was looking tired as the half ended, behind 2-1 despite having taken the early lead.
Canada made two changes with Jonathan Osorio and Ismaël Koné coming on to add more firepower into the midfield that Croatia had been dominating in the last twenty minutes of the first half. It was Osorio who was the first to get a chance and his curving shot went narrowly wide. Mateo Kovacić was controlling the middle of the pitch with Modrić.
In the 54th minute, it was Modrić who beautifully set up Kramarić but it was Milan Borjan who came up with a super save. This was quickly followed up by a excellent save from Dominik Livacović on a goal bound Jonathan David shot. The game opened up and the game was end to end. Croatia made their first change and removed the goal scorer Marko Livaya for Lekoković. Canada then made their third change and brought on Cardiff City forward Junior Hoilett for the final 30 minutes.
The game ebbed and flowed with Canada lacking that final touch. Croatia patiently waited for their opportunity as Canada were forced to commit more men forward. Perisić was the provider again and Andrej Kramarić put away a lovely cross for his second goal of the match. Canada had 20 minutes to get back into the game. The Canadian continued to press forward and had a couple of opportunities but could not get the ball into the Croatian net. It was Mateo Kovacić who forced a brilliant save from Milan Borjan.
The final minutes of the game were chippy and saw Luka Modrić and Atiba Hutchison pick up yellow cards. The Croatians then took more time off the clock when they made three changes. The veterans were replaced by the future and the energy levels for the Croatians was increased. Junior Hoilett had an unsuccessful attempt on goal. Croatia had one more goal after a horrible moment for Kamal Miller at the back and Lovro Majer slotted the ball home.
Here's how Croatia wrapped up their victory— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 27, 2022
Lovro Majer taps in their fourth from close range after a mistake from Canada's Kamal Miller.
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Croatian quality was the order of the day. Canada’s flying start was quickly neutralized and the Croatians never looked like they were going to allow Canada to get back into the game. Canada is now unable to qualify for the next round but they will play a significant role in the outcome of the group. Croatia have now lost just once in their last 18 outings, and must face Belgium on Thursday to secure a spot in second round.