Having disappointed in their goalless stalemate against Morocco in the opening group match, Croatia set out to give a better account of themselves at the World Cup today.
However, they began on a sour note as Canada snatched a lead with the game in its infancy.
Perhaps inspired by their performance in the last game, Canada wasted no time netting their first-ever World Cup goal barely two minutes into the tie.
Tajon Buchanan’s looping cross was met by Alphonso Davies, whose thumping header had Dominik Livaković stranded.
Having scored the earliest goal in the tournament thus far, Canada looked to build on their momentum, but Croatia had other plans, and their attacking dynamism was rewarded after the half-hour mark.
Ivan Perisic slid through a superb reverse pass to put Andrej Kramarić through, and the Hoffenheim striker reacted with a quick turn and slotted into the far corner from a tight angle.
Zlatko Dalic’s side then took the lead just eight minutes later after a direct run by Josip Juranovic put Marko Livaja in some space on the edge of the box, and the current Croatian League top scorer made no mistake, taking his chance with aplomb.
The half-time team talk from John Herdman will no doubt have been for his players to respond in the second half as they showed glimpses of quality in the first period, and substitute Jonathan Osorio went agonisingly close with a curling effort.
The goalkeepers of the two sides traded fine saves, but Perisic and Kramaric once again combined to put the match, and Canada’s fate, beyond doubt as the Hoffenheim striker excellently brought down his teammate’s cross and placed it into the corner of the net.
The Vrateni then extended their lead even further inside added time as Mislav Orsic capitalised on a mistake by Kamal Miller, then squared the ball to Lovro Majer, and the Stade Rennais midfielder could not have asked for a simpler finish.
The win extends Croatia’s unbeaten streak to eight matches in all competitions, and they will only need to draw with Belgium to progress to the last 16.
Meanwhile, Canada saw their dreams of making it to the knockout phase fizzle out with a game to spare, and they will head into their final group stage meeting with Morocco still looking for their first-ever World Cup point.
Dominik Livakovic (6/10) – Could not do anything about Davies’ goal but made a couple of important interventions afterwards.
Josip Juranovic (7/10) – Was guilty of ball-watching on the opening goal but did well to help his side take the lead with an assist.
Dejan Lovren (5/10) – Struggled to defend against Canada’s pacey attack but kept his composure on the ball, at least.
Josko Gvardiol (7/10) – Coped better than Lovren at the heart of the defence and was crucial in carrying the ball out from the back.
Borna Sosa (6/10) – Struggled early on against Buchanan but got to grips with him eventually. Did well in attack too.
Luka Modric (7/10) – Showed excellent composure in a chaotic clash. An improved performance from his last outing.
Marcelo Brozovic (7/10) – Bossed the midfield and helped his side gain a foothold in the game.
Mateo Kovacic (9/10) – Canada could not deal with his ball-carrying ability, and he used it to great effect, unsettling and destabilising the opposition all night.
Marko Livaja (7/10) – Took his goal brilliantly but was very quiet otherwise.
Andrej Kramaric (9/10) – Showed ice-cool composure to finish two of his big chances and will feel he should have grabbed a deserved hat trick.
Ivan Perisic (8/10) – Put in a vintage performance. Worked tirelessly to put Canada on the ropes and was good value for both his assists.
Bruno Petkovic (5/10)
Nikola Vlasic (4/10)
Mislav Orsic (7/10)
Mario Pasalic (N/A)
Lovro Majer (7/10)
Milan Borjan (5/10) – Made some good saves but seemed nervous on occasion. Was unable to keep his side in the game.
Alistair Johnston (5/10) – Often found himself isolated and lacked composure on the ball.
Steven Vitoria (5/10) – Worked hard but struggled to cope with the movement from Croatia’s forward line.
Kamal Miller (5/10) – Probably Canada’s best defender, but made a costly mistake in the final moments.
Richie Laryea (6/10) – Worked hard in the early moments of the game, but started to fade later on.
Atiba Hutchinson (4/10) – His 100th international cap did not go to plan. The game often passed him by, and his serious lack of pace was glaring.
Stephen Eustaquio (5/10) – Tidy and effective on the ball but struggled with an injury as the first half went on. Subbed out at half-time.
Tajon Buchanan (7/10) – Provided a beautiful assist for the opening goal and was one of Canada’s best outlets all night, terrorising the Croatian backline with his pace and trickery.
Cyle Larin (4/10) – Nowhere near as effective as his attacking teammates. He barely got into the game and was brought off at half-time.
Jonathan David (5/10) – Was not his night. He also struggled to effectively impact the game.
Alphonso Davies (8/10) – Made history with Canada’s first-ever goal at a World Cup. Continued to frighten Croatia’s defence with his pace and skill, but his decision-making was lacking.
Jonathan Osorio (6/10)
Ismael Kone (6/10)
Junior Hoilett (5/10)
Lucas Cavallini (4/10)
Sam Adekugbe (5/10)
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