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Canada Versus Croatia Ends in Heartbreak

CanMNT Defender Kamal Miller Disappointed After Losing in the Canada Versus Croatia Match-up

ANALYSIS –  Canada versus Croatia ends in heartbreak for the Canadians, as their World Cup campaign is cut short by a ruthless 4-1 defeat to a seasoned Croatia side. While Alphonso Davies’ early goal made history for Canada, Croatia demonstrated the caliber and tenacity that brought them to the World Cup final in 2018. And ultimately, they exposed Canada’s inexperience and naivety on the grandest stage of them all.

Canada Versus Croatia Starts Positively But Ends Up Losing 4-1

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Bright Start Makes History for Canada Versus Croatia

First thing first, we cannot take away from the history that was made in just the third minute of this game. A great direct ball from Canada’s backline gets taken down by Cyle Larin, who feeds the onrushing Tajon Buchanan on the right. Buchanan then looks up and spots a bombarding Davies, and whips a great ball into his path. And all the Bayern Munich star had to do was get a good connection on it, and boy did he, heading it straight down into the ground to make it impossible for the Croatian shot-stopper Livaković to save.

Canada then continued their bright start and began to dominate Croatia for the first 15 minutes in the same way they did Belgium, overloading the sides and hitting them fast on the counters. Truly, in the opening moments, it really did seem like Canada could do the improbable and beat the 2018 World Cup runners-up. Sadly, that was not the case in the end.

Naivety From the Start?

Going into this match, everyone knew about the threat that Croatia had in the middle of the park, boasting a world-class three-man midfield of Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić, and Marcelo Brozović.

That made it all the more surprising when Canada head coach John Herdman started the same midfield two that played versus Belgium, in Stephen Eustaquio and Atiba Hutchinson. While the midfield mismatch seemed to not be such a big issue in the first 15-20 minutes, it became a glaringly obvious problem in the rest of the game.

Atiba Hutchinson, in making his 100th appearance for Canada, did not do his legacy any favours with that performance. He seemed tired, lacking in sharpness, and lethargic throughout the game. Kovačić, Brozović, and Modrić ran rings around him, leaving Eustaquio as the only real midfield that could keep up with them. And while Eustaquio is a dynamic and relentless midfielder, he alone cannot defend a three-man midfield, let alone one of Croatia’s abilities.

Perhaps it was the lack of real game time throughout the year, or his age finally catching up to him, but today was just not Atiba’s day. To his credit, perhaps it was down to the naivety of John Herdman in not matching up to Croatia’s midfield three that set Atiba and Eustaquio up for failure. Canada losing that midfield battle was always going to be a death sentence, and the resulting score-line underlined that fact.

Late on Canada showed some more of that attacking promise, but it was too little too late in a humbling match for the CanMNT.

Lessons To Build on From Canada Versus Croatia

While the final score-line is painful for Canada and probably flatters Croatia a bit given how the opening 20 minutes went, it gave Canada some important, albeit tough, lessons to learn.

Canada was going into these World Cup matches having never faced opponents of such quality on a stage of such significance. There were always going to be moments of nerves, poor decisions, and cheap mistakes, and so this tournament now becomes a building block for a team with so much potential.

Ismael Koné looked solid in the midfield when he came in, just lacking some attacking edge at times, but he is still at the raw age of 20. Osorio looked class as well, and will most likely take over the role of Atiba as the heart and soul of that midfield when he inevitably passes the torch over. Jonathan David, Buchanan, and Davies themselves look to be world-beaters, and with a few European moves for some other stars likely in the aftermath of this campaign, this will only make Canada grow stronger in the next few years.

With a strong foundation, a plethora of young talent, and great football ability, Canada has set itself up for success in the future. And that is something that they can definitely be proud of.

Pride on the Line Versus Morocco

Although Canada is out of this competition, they still have one more game to come. A final group game versus Morocco is one that is sure to be just as tough for Les Rouges, as Morocco looks to assure their qualification to the round of 16 with a positive result.

For Canada, it will be a game of pride, as they look to try to get their first points on the board in World Cup history. While this game versus Croatia will most likely still sting for those Boys in Red, they can go out with their heads held high on Thursday, and give one last showing of why Canada is, and surely will continue to be, on the world’s biggest stage.


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