Kramaric scored two as Croatia sealed Canada’s fate with a 4-1 victory.
A group of turmoil indeed; before coming to this match the results of the group were all over the place.
If Japan beat Germany, and then Costa Rica beats Japan, then is Japan good? Is Germany that bad? And what are we to make of Canada, which dominated Belgium and still lost.
Canada also beat Japan in the last friendly before the Cup started. But Belgium just laid an egg against Morocco. So, is Canada better than Germany? Worse than Morocco?
This confusing hierarchy was emulated in the game because it was the Canadians – and specifically Davies – who landed a dream start by scoring the fastest goal in Qatar 2022, and more interestingly, the first Canadian goal in World Cup history. It came from a big distribution from Borjan to Buchanan, who patiently waited to see Davies making his run. The final header was a thing of beauty.
It would take a great amount of organisation and determination for Canada to keep their early lead; something they maintained until the end of the first half.
The movement between Kovacic, Brozovic, and Modric would have lulled other opponents into sleep before striking in an instant, but Hutchinson and Eustaquio were regimented and coordinated.
Croatia crank up the pressure
Croatia then shifted gears. They started getting the best of Canada’s right flank, where Alistair Johnston and Richie Laryea were failing to shut anyone down.
It started with a nice attack against a shaky Canadian defence, but a pass in the buildup was judged to have been offside. Canada’s defence started looking a bit vulnerable, and Croatia’s attack looked better than Belgium’s.
Soon after, the goal would come. Livaja managed a firm shot, despite having two defenders around him; Borjan held his ground and knocked it out. On the aforementioned Canadian right flank, Perisic finds Kramaric were left unattended in the box, and the Hoffenheim attacker slotted it home.
But Croatia didn’t stop there. They would score once more before half time, putting Canada behind after they had led in the first half for the second game running. Slow to react in every step of midfield after a quick free kick, Livaja had plenty of space to pick his spot from the top of the box.
The second half started with a patient Canadian buildup, ending with an impatient Buchanan cross. But they won it back, and suddenly it was a half-chance. Then another excellent chance came, as Osorio surprised everyone by unleashing a 20-yard shot that skimmed past the far post.
But it would be Croatia’s game to kill. A massive save was required from Borjan on Kramaric, who was teed up nicely for a shot near the penalty spot. He placed it with power to Borjan’s right.
Soon after, Croatia got their third goal. You can fault several Canadian defenders and midfielders for simply failing to put a foot in; Perisic’s cross just rolled across the field to Kramaric, who scored from 16 yards out.
Borjan would makes two leg saves like a good hockey keeper in the closing minutes, but that would be for nothing as Canada would concede once more. Miller whiffed on the ball 45 yards out, and Orsic and Majer raced away, with only Borjan to beat. Orsic played to Majer, and it was a simple goal. There was nothing Borjan could do.
In the end, the closing whistle seemed like a mercy for the Canadians. They’ll be disappointed that they can’t qualify for the R16 anymore, but the Croatians will be proud by a display worthy of 2018’s World Cup runner-ups.