World Cup Daily: After humbling loss, Canada has one more chance to leave impression

After each matchday of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.         

Here’s what happened on Sunday in Qatar, in case you missed it…         

THE RESULTS         

Japan 1, Costa Rica 0 in Al Rayyan: Match report || Match stats  

Belgium 0, Morocco 2 in Doha: Match report || Match stats  

Croatia 4, Canada 1 in Al Rayyan: Match report || Match stats  

Spain 1, Germany 1 in Al Khor: Match report || Match stats  

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MAIN TALKING POINT         

Canada humbled at the feet of mighty Croatia 

It was a moment 36 years in the making. When Alphonso Davies opened the scoring inside the first two minutes, Canada looked to be off to the races in its Group F contest against Croatia.

Davies’ header off a great cross by Tajon Buchanan ended the Canadian men’s team’s goal drought at the World Cup after 36 years. The Croatians were stunned, and for 25 minutes they held on by the skin of their teeth as the Canadians ran at them and put them under constant attacking pressure. 

Eventually, though, the World Cup finalists from four years ago seized control of the match.

Buoyed by the magical midfield trio of Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan) and Mateo Kovačić, Croatia began to ruthlessly open up Canada’s back line and exploit its lack of defensive diligence in the middle of the park.

The quick-thinking Croatian midfielders proved to be too much for captain Atiba Hutchinson (earning his 100th cap) and centre-back Alistair Johnston, as their team’s best-attacking comments came down the left side.

A superb reverse pass inside the penalty area by Ivan Perišić released Andrej Kramarić, and the striker made no mistake by firing past Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan to level the score after 36 minutes. Borjan had to pick the ball out of his net again just before halftime when he was beaten by a shot from Marko Livaja from just outside the box.  

With the game slipping away from him, Canadian coach John Herdman made two changes to start the second half when he brought on Jonathan Osorio and Ismaël Koné for Stephen Eustáquio (who looked to have picked up an injury) and Cyle Larin. But those changes did little to tip the battle of the midfield in Canada’s favour.

Croatia continued to dominate and tightened the screws until Kramarić netted his second goal in the 70th minute when he easily peeled away from two defenders inside the box and beat Borjan with a low shot.

An error by Kamal Miller deep into injury time led to a two-man breakaway for Croatia that saw Mislav Oršić square the ball across the box for fellow substitute Lovro Majer to slam into the back of the net with Borjan at his mercy. 

Canada joins hosts Qatar as the only teams to be eliminated at the World Cup, with its elimination coming with a game to spare.

Most pundits believed it was always going to be tough for Canada to emerge from a group with European giants Belgium and Croatia. And so, it came to pass.

One final match against Morocco gives the Canadians a chance to exit the tournament with a bit of pride and record its first-ever point at the World Cup. Thursday’s game will be the lasting impression fans from the rest of the world will have of Canada until it co-hosts the 2026 World Cup.

It’s a big opportunity for the team, one that it has to make the most of after this humbling defeat. 

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GOAL OF THE DAY         

There can only be one choice. A long ball played out from the back by Canadian goalkeeper Borjan was exquisitely controlled by Cyle Larin, who then released Buchanan down the left side.

Buchanan eventually delivered a dangerous cross deep into the box where a late arriving Davies split two Croatian defenders and headed home past Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković. 

MOMENT OF THE DAY         

Nothing else needs to be said:

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QUOTE OF THE DAY         

“That’s my learning. I’ll take it on the chin.” – Canadian coach John Herdman, in response to Croatia forward Andrej Kramarić, who said. “I want to thank the Canada coach for the motivation. In the end, Croatia demonstrated who ‘F’d’ whom.” Following Canada’s loss to Belgium, Herdman told his players that, “We’re going to go and F Croatia.” 

SIX PACK OF STATS         

• Alphonso Davies’ goal for Canada after 67 seconds is the fastest goal in a group stage match at the World Cup since Clint Dempsey of the U.S. scored after 29 seconds against Ghana in 2014.

• Canada is the third men’s team to lose its first five World Cup matches, joining Mexico (first nine) and El Salvador (all six). 

• Keylor Navas and Celso Borges are the first players for Costa Rica to play in 10 World Cup games.

• Abdelhamid Sabiri’s goal for Morocco was the first scored from a direct free kick by any nation at this World Cup.

• Álvaro Morata is the sixth player to score in consecutive games as a substitute in World Cup history (two goals), and the first to do so for Spain.

• Germany’s Manuel Neuer played in his 18th World Cup game, tying Brazil’s Cláudio Taffarel and countryman Sepp Maier for the most tournament appearances by a goalkeeper. 

Stats courtesy of Opta         

SPORTSNET IN QATAR  

Sportsnet.ca contributor Peter Galindo is in Qatar covering the World Cup.  

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THREE STARS OF THE DAY         

1) Andrej Kramarić, Croatia: Bagged a brace and was a thorn in the side of Canada’s defence the entire game. 

2) Mateo Kovačić, Croatia: He didn’t score or pick up an assist. But he helped Croatia boss Canada in the midfield with his excellent two-way play, registering five tackles and completing 93 per cent of his passes 

3) Hakim Ziyech, Morocco: Collected an assist and caused Belgium plenty of problems with his attacking and probing runs down the right wing. 

LOOKING AHEAD TO MONDAY         

Cristiano Ronaldo will make his second appearance of the tournament when Portugal takes on Uruguay (2:00 p.m. ET) in Group H, but the marquee matchup is Group G’s contest between Brazil and Switzerland (11:00 p.m. ET). Both teams won their opening matches, which means a win by either side in this one would see them take firm control of Group G going into Matchday 3. 

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.

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