Canada’s World Cup hopes on defeat by Croatia

Canada wasted little time on Sunday and ended their men’s World Cup goal drought at the hands of Alphonso Davies but were unable to stop Croatia, losing 4-1 to end their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds of the tournament .

Ranked 12th in the world and second to France four years ago in Russia, Croatia is brimming with talent from top clubs and showed its class in rallying after an early 1-0 deficit.

Two goals from Andrej Kramaric and one from Marko Livaja ensured the Croatian comeback. Lovro Majer added an injury-time goal in a two-for-none attack in the 94th minute.

The 41st-placed Canadians started with a bang with a goal-kick from Milan Borjan, which found Cyle Larin in midfield. Larin controlled the ball with his foot and sent it down the right flank to Tajon Buchanan. Buchanan charged forward, took two touches, lifted his head and sent a cross that Davies, who was floating through the air high above full-back Josip Juranovic, headed home past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The tac-tac-toe goal came just 67 seconds into the game. But it actually took 36 years to develop – a goal worthy of Canada’s first goal in the men’s football show. Davies’ teammates beat the 22-year-old from Edmonton by the corner flag and the whole country celebrated.

Maybe a little too early.

It was Davies’ 13th goal for Canada – and first with a header – in 36 appearances. And it no doubt helped make up for his missed penalty in Canada’s 1-0 opening defeat by No. 2 Belgium.

But Croatia regains its composure and uses its precision to take over midfield and begin to open up the Canadian defense – two goals to lead 2-1 at the break.

But for a while it was all Canada with the Canadians in the crowd of 44,374 chanting “This is our house” after Davies’ goal.

Davies felt it when he nutmeg’d Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic in the 22nd minute as the Canadians brushed the ball across the immaculate pitch at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Then the tide turned.

Kramaric equalized in the 36th minute after a pass from Ivan Perisic that went through Alistair Johnston’s legs. Hoffenheim then hit Borjan coolly from a tight angle with a well-placed left-footed shot into the corner of the goal.

Mateo Kovacic had a hand in goal, faked by Stephen Eustaquio to make room for the pass to Perisic.

Livaja gave Croatia the lead in the 44th minute after Juranovic ripped open the Canadian defence. The Croatia right-back punched Davies to start his run and after a lucky bounce in traffic, he slid the ball between Steven Vitoria’s legs to Livaja, whose shot missed the outstretched arm of a falling Borjan.

Kramaric made it 3-1 in the 70th minute, elegantly turning the ball away from Kamal Miller to make room for a left-footed shot through Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson’s legs. Tottenham’s Perisic played as provider again.

The Croatian fans sang while the Canadians watched in silence.

Coming into the competition – the first-ever meeting between the two countries – the Canadians needed at least a point to keep their hopes of progressing from the group stage alive.”

Croatia also needed a result after drawing 0-0 against Morocco in their opening game.

The Canadians will go home after the conclusion of Thursday’s tournament game against Morocco – their first ever World Cup game against a non-European opponent. They will hope to leave on a winning note.

The stadium echoed “O Canada” and the Canadian section in the stands belted out the lyrics. And Davies quickly turned up the volume.

Croatia were 1-0 down and thought they had leveled the game in the 26th minute when Kramaric scored, only to see the offside flag fly for a move in progress. Borjan then got his body in the way of a Livaja shot.

Croatia beat Canada 5-1 (4-1 on shots) in the first half.

Herdman sent on Jonathan Osorio and Ismael Kone early in the second half, replacing Larin and Eustaquio, who took a hit in the first half. Davies left midfield to join Jonathan David up front.

Osorio came close minutes later with a curl shot that beat the keeper but shot wide. On the other hand, Borjan made it big to deny Kramaric.

Junior Hoilett was sent to reinforce the Canadian attack, with the defense shifting to a back three. Burly forward Lucas Cavallini came on later as Herdman rolled the dice.

Hutchinson was his 100th appearance for Canada.

The 39-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, is the oldest outfield player at the tournament and the second-oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup after Roger Milla of Cameroon (42 years 29 days in 1994). The veteran midfielder made his professional debut for Canada in January 2003.

Hutchinson, Turkey’s Besiktas captain, took his bumps in the game with cotton in his nose to stop bleeding in the second half.

While Hutchinson holds Canada’s men’s international record, Christine Sinclair is Canada’s all-time leader with 319 international appearances.

Canada have gone without a win in their last 13 games against UEFA opponents (0-8-5), dating back to a 1-0 win over Belarus in March 2011.

Croatia, on the other hand, came into play after losing just one of their last 17 games (11-1-5). The Croatians were beaten 3-0 by Austria in the UEFA Nations League in June, a defeat they returned with a 3-1 win in September.

The Canada-Croatia game was played against a backdrop of tension after Herdman delivered emotional messages to his players following the loss to Belgium.

When asked in a pitchside interview what he said in a post-game conversation, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going and eff – Croatia. It’s not that easy.”

This prompted an immediate reaction from Croatian tabloids and a stern speech from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on Saturday about the need for respect.

Herdman maintained his message to players “to remind them that there is another task ahead of them.” And he was quick to compliment Croatia, calling them a “top-top-top-top football team”.

But the damage was done. Perhaps fittingly, Canada wore the whole of Black Sunday.

Herdman made a change to his starting lineup, Larin came in for Hoilett and switched to a 4-4-2 formation.

Borjan, who plays his club football for Red Star Belgrade in Serbia, started in goal behind a defensive line of Richie Laryea, Vitoria, Miller and Johnston.

Hutchinson, Eustaquio, Davies and Buchanan were in midfield behind David and Larin.

The Croatia squad is made up of eight players with World Cup experience, including star midfielder Luka Modric, who is in his third tournament.

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