A bit of trash talk meant to inspire Canada instead motivated Croatia.
Canada coach John Herdman had tried to boost his team following a loss to Belgium to open the team’s first World Cup appearance in 36 years — using colorful language that Croatia took exception to.
The 2018 runners-up responded on Sunday with a 4-1 victory over the Canadians, who were eliminated after two matches in Qatar.
“I have to say thank you to the head coach of Canada for the motivation,” said Andrej Kramaric, who scored two goals on Sunday.
Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever men’s World Cup goal a minute into the match but Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer also scored for Croatia, which lost to France in the final four years ago in Russia and opened with a scoreless draw against Morocco.
Luka Modric, the 37-year-old captain who runs the midfield for Croatia, is still looking for his first goal of the tournament in what is likely his final World Cup.
Canada opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Belgium. Afterward, Herdman stirred a bit of controversy when he recounted his post-game message to his players, using the first letter of a profanity to describe how they would beat their next opponents.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic responded the day before the match and he was still salty about it on Sunday. He took a dig at Herdman, a 47-year old Englishman who coached Canada’s team at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, after the match.
“He is a high quality professional, but it will take time for him to learn some things,” Dalic said.
Croatia and Morocco, which caused another upset at this year’s tournament by beating Belgium 2-0 earlier Sunday, both have four points in Group F. Belgium has three points and still has a chance to advance.
“Croatia once again demonstrated power, strength and quality, and no one was happier about that than me,” Dalic said.
Canada earned no points from its first two matches and can’t advance even if it beats Morocco on Thursday in its final match. Croatia and Belgium will play at the same time.
Davies, who plays for Bayern Munich, headed a cross from Tajon Buchanan just out of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic’s reach 1 minute, 8 seconds into the match. The goal had the swath of red-shirted Canadian fans chanting “Can-a-da! Can-a-da!” at Khalifa International Stadium.
“I am disappointed in the result. It was not easy,” said Davies, who had a penalty saved in the opening loss to Belgium. “We did our best, we fought the entire game. We’re looking forward to the next game and hopefully we get some points.”
Kramaric appeared to score the equalizer for Croatia in the 26th minute but he was ruled offside. His second chance counted about 10 minutes later, making it 1-1.
Livaja put Croatia in front with a blast from outside the penalty box in the 44th minute, Kramaric added his second in the 70th and Majer scored in stoppage time.
“I had a great opportunity and it’s a great feeling to score two goals at a World Cup,” Kramaric said. “This is not an everyday event.”
Canada was also eliminated in the group stage of the team’s only other World Cup appearance in 1986.
Herdman, who said he has not regrets about his comments to fire up his team, turned his attention to motivate them for the final match in Qatar — and set the team in the right direction for 2026, when Canada co-hosts the World Cup with the United States and Mexico.
“I’m proud of what they achieved tonight, which was to make some history for our country,” Herdman said. “They’ll be disappointed tomorrow. They’ll be hurting but then we’ll look forward. We’ve got a big game coming up against Morocco, a huge game for Canada in the sense there’s a lot for us to play for.”