Who: Croatia vs Canada, Group F
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
When: November 27 at 7pm (16:00 GMT)
Croatia and Canada will both feel they should have won their opening fixture.
The 2018 finalists were held to a frustrating nil-nil draw against Morocco as they struggled to find the cutting edge in a game where chances were at a premium.
Canada’s opening match, their first in a World Cup since 1986, proved to be more entertaining. The Maple Leafs’ performance belied their experience on this stage as their high press and sharp movement suffocated Belgium. The Belgians conceded a penalty in only the 10th minute of the game, but Canadian star Alphonso Davies had his attempt saved by Thibaut Courtois.
Canada’s verve didn’t wane. Despite having Belgium on the back foot for a majority of the first half, they conceded late in the first half. Their intensity fell off in the second half, and Belgium held on for a 1-0 win.
A disappointing result against a top team in the World Cup. we got two more games to go, we go again on Sunday!
Thank you to all the fans for their support!🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/fpNQmxTuH9
— Alphonso Davies (@AlphonsoDavies) November 24, 2022
Canada manager John Herdman pulled the players into a huddle on the pitch after the final whistle, where he lauded their performance and, in rather colourful language, told them they’d defeat Croatia.
While Herdman’s rallying cry came in the heat of the moment, it isn’t a far-fetched prospect. While Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic are all excellent midfield technicians, they may struggle against a team as pacy as Canada. The Maple Leafs overran the Belgian midfield to such an extent in the first half that manager Roberto Martinez was forced to bring on two defensive midfielders at half-time.
Unsurprisingly, Modric still holds the key for Croatia. Against, Morocco, he dictated play and was judged man of the match for his performance. But the bluntness of his team’s strike force remains an issue: In their past eight games, Croatia have managed just 10 goals.
And while Canada’s fledgling group of youngsters is beginning to take flight, Croatia’s golden generation has begun its descent after spending the past few years flying high.
Will Croatia’s experience and wiliness be enough to overcome plucky Canada?