Croatia overcame a spirited Canada on Sunday evening to register an impressive 4-1 victory, sending themselves top of Group F and eliminating the North American underdogs from the World Cup.
The 2018 runners-up had fallen behind after 68 seconds at the Khalifa International Stadium when the scintillating Alphonso Davies thumped a header into the net. It was the earliest goal of the tournament so far and a historic moment for Canada – their first-ever goal at a World Cup.
Despite the early setback, Croatia soon asserted themselves in the match, with Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings in midfield. In the 36th minute, they drew level when Ivan Perisic, a growing influence on the left wing, slid the ball through to Andrej Kramaric, who shot the first time into the far corner of the goal.
Croatia were buoyant and took the lead eight minutes later, when a lovely build-up from the back ended with Marko Livaja firing right-footed low into the net from the edge of the area after being fed by Kovacic.
Canada’s coach John Herdman rang the changes at halftime in an effort to claw back the initiative, and substitute Jonathan Osorio curled an effort just wide shortly after the restart.
Canada went close again when Jonathan David’s shot was superbly tipped over by Dominik Livakovic.
Yet, their hopes of getting back into the contest were dashed when a curling cross from Ivan Perisic on the left was controlled by Kramaric, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and dispatched it low into the bottom corner in the 70th minute to double his tally.
Lovro Majer netted in stoppage time via a breakaway counterattack as Canada continued to press for a consolation goal, wrapping up a victory that moved Croatia to the top of Group F on four points.
Pre-match war of words
It was an especially sweet success for Croatia after Canada boss John Herdman irked Zlatko Dalic’s side with his profane attempt to inspire his players after a 1-0 defeat against Belgium in their group opener.
In a television interview, Herdman said he had told his players following the loss that “they belong” at the World Cup and were “going to go and ‘eff’ Croatia”.
Dalic had taken exception to Herdman’s rant, insisting on Saturday that his team deserved “respect” from their opponents.
Croatia now need only a draw in their final game on Thursday against third-placed Belgium, who are a point behind, to guarantee a knockout spot.
Canada, meanwhile, are now condemned to exit at the group stage after consecutive defeats in their opening two games.
They are also in action on Thursday when they will face Morocco, who are level with Croatia on four points but behind on goal difference.
The Canadians will be looking to finish their tournament on a high before hosting the next edition of the FIFA games in 2026, alongside the United States and Mexico.