World Cup: Canada scores early before losing to Croatia

The last time Canada came to the World Cup, Diego Maradona still played, the Soviet Union reached the round of 16 and for the first time plastic balls replaced leather balls.

The team’s stay was short, with Canada going home after losing their three group games without a goal. After two games of this World Cup, Canada again have no wins, no points and no chance to get out of the group game after a 4-1 loss to Croatia on Sunday.

The Canadians scored a goal and that counts as progress.

“We’ve wanted that for our country for a long time,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who became the first Canadian to win his 100th international match on Sunday. “Just seeing the ball land in the back of the net was great.”

Hutchinson, 39, is the oldest player in a young Canadian team that will join the United States and Mexico in four years to host the World Cup when many of their players will be in their prime. Hutchinson, meanwhile, will be in his living room.

He got the chance to bid farewell on football’s biggest stage, something he was sure he would miss because, until last year, Canada had not qualified for the final round of regional World Cup qualifiers since 1994 .

“I always dreamed of playing at a World Cup,” he said. “It’s something I didn’t think would happen.”

For the players Hutchinson will soon be leaving behind, that dream will resume in four years, making the trip to Qatar an important learning experience. The first lesson was watch what you say.

After Canada beat Belgium but lost their opening game, an ebullient Canadian coach, John Herdman, repeated to a TV interviewer what he had said to his players.

“I just told them that they belong here and that we will go to Croatia next,” he said.

Oops. Croatia, 2018 runners-up, didn’t appreciate being called up by a coach whose team wasn’t at the tournament as the disco was popular.

“I want to thank the Canadian coach for his motivation,” said Andrej Kramaric, who scored two of Croatia’s four goals on Sunday. “In the end, Croatia showed who defeated who.”

Croatia’s Herdman coach Zlatko Dalic added: “He’s a high-level professional but it will take time for him to learn some things.”

Canada scored their first World Cup goal quickly out of the way, with Alphonso Davies scoring just 68 seconds after kick-off. The goal was the fastest of this World Cup, but Canada would just keep scoring more shots for the rest of the evening.

FILE - The branding will be on display near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar on March 31, 2022

⚽ World Cup 2022 in Qatar

That allowed Kramaric to equalize in the 36th minute, taking a clever pass from Ivan Perisic deep into the box and sending a low shot to the far post. A minute before the end of regular time in the first half, Marko Livaja gave the Croatians the lead, although Josip Juranovic put the goal in place with a 40-yard diagonal run through the wide open center of Canada’s defence. Juranovic lost the ball just after a tackle against Kamal Miller, but after regaining the ball, he slipped the ball through Miller’s leg to Lavaja for the easy finish.

Kramaric ended the game with his second goal of the evening in the 70th minute, putting in a long long pass from the post by Perisic down the right side of the box, taking a long step down the middle and executing a left-footed shot through Hutchinson’s legs and in the left Post.

Lovro Majer completed four minutes into second-half injury time after Miller lost the ball in midfield. This allowed Majer and Mislav Orsic, who had started together eight minutes earlier, to gallop away on a counterattack that ended with Orsic unselfishly conceding the goal to Majer, who had an easy finish.

Croatia are now playing their last group match against Belgium and only need a draw to advance to the knockout rounds. A defeat, however, would send Croatia home if Morocco snatch at least a point against Canada, a side who have already shifted their focus from this World Cup to the World Cup they will be hosting.

“I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished, which is making history for our country,” Herdman said of his team. “We have a big game against Morocco ahead of us. There’s a lot for us to play. We came here to make history. That final game is about getting a result and winning for Canada and really convincing that country that we’re on the right track for 2026.” World Cup: Canada scores early before losing to Croatia

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