Les Rouges began the match on the front foot yet again, but the runners-up of the 2018 World Cup showed their talent and experience as Croatia picked up a favourable result that keeps them in the hunt to advance to the round of 16.
It was a dream start for Canada as they opened the scoring in the second minute. Alphonso Davies avenged his failed penalty shot from last game against Belgium. The Bayern Munich star got on the end of a Tajon Buchanan cross and headed it into the net to score the men’s program’s first ever goal at a FIFA World Cup.
With that goal, Alphonso Davies made history for both his country and the region they play in.
68 - Alphonso Davies' goal after 68 seconds is the fastest goal in a group stage match at the World Cup since Clint Dempsey scored after 29 seconds against Ghana in 2014. Concacaf'd. pic.twitter.com/pLJMAoGZ0X— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) November 27, 2022
In the ninth minute, Tajon Buchanan worked his way down the right wing and got past a couple of Croatia players before sending a pass to Davies, his through ball found Cyle Larin, but he was offside.
Two minutes later on the other end, Alistair Johnston worked hard to block a cross from winger Ivan Perišić.
Midway through the first half, Mateo Kovačić dribbled past captain Atiba Hutchinson and then sent a pass wide to Borna Sosa - his cross into the box found Marko Livaja but he couldn’t get his boot onto the ball.
Croatia thought they tied the match in the 26th minute. Andrej Kramarić thought he scored, but Livaja was offside as he received a pass which began the play.
Canadian ‘keeper Milan Borjan was called into action in the 35th minute when he made a big save on Livaja.
Unfortunately a minute later, Canada would concede. Kramarić’s composed shot past Borjan levelled the match.
Livaja would finally get his goal when he scored in the 44th minute. Persistence from fullback Josip Juranović pushed the ball into Livaja’s path and he did the rest.
Canada coach John Herdman made two substitutions at halftime: Jonathan Osorio and Ismaël Koné entered the match for Stephen Eustáquio and Larin.
Osorio had a golden opportunity to tie the game at two goals apiece. Toronto FC fans know how effective Oso can be in those areas.
Les Rouges were in danger in the 54th minute when veteran midfielder Luka Modrić cut a pass back to Kramarić, but Borjan was equal to the task.
Croatia ‘keeper Dominik Livaković made a world class save on a goal-bound effort from striker Jonathan David just a minute later.
Kramarić made it a brace for himself with 20 minutes remaining.
It could have been a much worse scoreline if not for the heroics of Borjan throughout the game.
Canada came close to adding a consolation goal in second half stoppage time. A cross from Davies towards the back post caused some commotion, a scramble in the box was concluded with a shot from Junior Hoilett that went wide of the net.
The Reds conceded a fourth goal right before the end of the match, substitute Lovro Majer scored after Kamal Miller failed to clear the ball from his own half.
Besides all the goals today, Hutchinson made his 100th appearance for the national team - a big milestone for the Brampton native.
After Canada’s loss to Belgium, Herdman said in an interview that he told his players “they belong here, and we’re gonna go and ‘F’ Croatia, it’s as simple as it gets.”
Kramarić had some cheeky words when he spoke to the media today after Croatia’s victory.
“I want to thank Canada’s coach for the motivation. Croatia demonstrated who F’d whom,” said Kramarić.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić commented on Herdman’s absence when trying to find him to shake his hand.
“I didn’t see [Herdman] after the match. When I win, I congratulate the winner but he wasn’t there. That is his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad and it will take some time to learn some things,” said Dalić.
Although officially eliminated from the tournament, Les Rouges can still play spoiler on the final match-day because the other three teams in the group have everything to play for. Croatia went into first following today’s match because of goal differential even though they have the same amount of points as Morocco (four). Meanwhile, Belgium were defeated by Morocco today but still have three points after their win against Canada.
Canada’s final group stage match is against Morocco on Thursday, December 1 at Al Thumama Stadium. Kick-off is at 6 pm local time (10 am EST).