Croatia recovered from an early setback to beat Canada 4-1 in a key Group F clash on Sunday evening.
After a promising, but ultimately fruitless showing against Belgium in their first World Cup match since 1986, Canada came into this clash full of confidence. It showed very quickly too, with Alphonso Davies tearing into the box to head home Tajon Buchanan’s excellent cross – thus becoming the first Canadian male to ever score at a World Cup.
Playing in a bold 4-2-4 system, the CanMNT kept their foot on the gas and for a good 10 minutes, had the Croatians purely on the back foot.
However, experience took over and the more Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Co got on the ball, the further back Canada were pushed.
Croatia were rewarded in the 36th minute when Andrej Kramaric – having already seen one goal disallowed – got behind the Canadian defence to meet Ivan Perisic’s through ball, firing past Milan Borjan from a tight angle.
With Canada still reeling, Croatia took the lead just before half-time, with Marko Livaja sweeping an inch-perfect finish into the bottom corner from distance after a driving run from Celtic full-back Josip Juranovic.
A half-time shake-up restored some energy for Canada, but John Herdman’s men were just unable to rediscover that attacking verve that had terrified Croatia so much in the opening stages.
The 2018 World Cup runners-up finished the job on 70 minutes when Kramaric picked the ball up in the corner of the 18-yard box before cutting inside and sweeping the ball into the far corner. Insult was added to injury when Mislav Orsic and Lovro Majer punished a Kamal Miller mistake.
Sunday’s result leaves Croatia top of Group F with four points, eliminating Canada from round of 16 contention.
Here are the full player ratings from Khalifa International Stadium:
GK: Dominik Livakovic – 6/10 – Helpless on the Davies goal but made a couple of important interventions afterwards.
RB: Josip Juranovic – 7/10 – Could be accused of ball-watching on the opening goal but the speed at which Davies crashed into the box was tremendous. Did well to set up Croatia’s second.
CB: Dejan Lovren – 5/10 – Didn’t enjoy defending against that pacey Canadian attack one bit. Kept his composure on the ball, at least.
CB: Josko Gvardiol – 7/10 – Coped better than Lovren and helped Croatia get out with some driving runs through the middle.
LB: Borna Sosa – 6/10 – Struggled early on against Buchanan but got to grips with him eventually. Got forward well.
CM: Luka Modric – 7/10 – Showed excellent composure in what was a chaotic clash.
CM: Marcelo Brozovic – 7/10 – Metronomic in midfield, calling on all of his technical and physical attributes to give Croatia control.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 9/10 – Canada couldn’t deal with the driving runs of Kovacic, who unsettled and destabilised the opposition all night.
RW: Marko Livaja – 7/10 – Took his goal brilliantly but was very quiet otherwise. The obvious choice to bring off as Croatia looked to re-energise.
ST: Andrej Kramaric – 9/10 – Showed ice-cool composure to finish two of his big chances and, on another night, could’ve had more. Always a threat.
LW: Ivan Perisic – 8/10 – Vintage Perisic. Worked relentlessly to disrupt Canada and still had the energy to drop two assists.
SUB: Bruno Petkovic (60′, for Livaja) – 5/10 – Never really found his rhythm.
SUB: Nikola Vlasic (73′, for Kramaric) – 5/10 – Didn’t get into the game.
SUB: Mislav Orsic (86′, for Perisic) – 7/10 – Pounced on a Miller mistake to set up the fourth goal.
SUB: Mario Pasalic (86′, for Modric) – N/A
SUB: Lovro Majer (86′, for Kovacic) – 7/10 – Helped himself to a late goal.
GK: Milan Borjan – 5/10 – Made some good saves but was beaten three times and had a few other nervous moments.
RB: Alistair Johnston – 5/10 – Needed more help from those around him, often finding himself isolated. Lacked a little composure on the ball.
CB: Steven Vitoria – 5/10 – Battled hard but struggled to cope with the mobility of Croatia’s forward line.
CB: Kamal Miller – 5/10 – Probably Canada’s best defender but made a terrible mistake in the final moments.
LB: Richie Laryea – 6/10 – Put in an immense amount of effort early in the match, causing him to fade quite quickly.
CM: Atiba Hutchinson – 3/10 – His 100th cap didn’t go to plan. The game often passed Hutchinson by with the midfielder’s 39 years of age showing with a serious lack of pace.
CM: Stephen Eustaquio – 6/10 – Tidy on the ball and effective on the ball but struggled with an injury as the first half went on. Subbed out at half-time.
RW: Tajon Buchanan – 7/10 – Provided a beautiful assist for the opening goal and was one of Canada’s best outlets all night with his pace and trickery.
ST: Cyle Larin – 3/10 – Nowhere near as effective as his attacking teammates. Barely got into the game and was brought off at half-time.
ST: Jonathan David – 5/10 – One strong effort from distance aside, this just wasn’t David’s night.
LW: Alphonso Davies – 8/10 – Made history with Canada’s first-ever goal at a World Cup. Continued to frighten the life out of Croatia with his pace and skill, but often made the wrong decision in key attacking moments.
SUB: Jonathan Osorio (46′, for Eustaquio) – 6/10 – Did a good job in restoring calm to the Canadian midfield.
SUB: Ismael Kone (46′, for Larin) – 6/10 – A very mature, composed performance from the CF Montreal youngster.
SUB: Junior Hoilett (62′, for Laryea) – 5/10 – Failed to change the game.
SUB: Lucas Cavallini (72′, for David) – 4/10 – Barely touched the ball.
SUB: Sam Adekugbe (73′, for Hutchinson) – 6/10 – Neat and tidy on the ball.