Canada again threatened a World Cup upset, but Croatia were ruthless in exposing their opponents’ flaws and ending their campaign.
Canada were eliminated from the World Cup after just two matches despite again playing their part in an entertaining encounter as Croatia won 4-1 at Khalifa International Stadium.
Canada returned to the finals after 36 years in their opening game against Belgium, where they were narrowly defeated.
It looked like a similar story on Sunday, although Croatia deservedly won in the end as two goals from Andrej Kramaric and one each from Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer overturned Canada’s early lead.
Alphonse Davies’ opener was his country’s first goal at the World Cup but five defeats in five ends their hopes of promotion as Croatia join Morocco in Group F on four points.
The wait for a breakthrough goal extended to just 67 seconds into Canada’s fifth finals game, with Davies meeting Tajon Buchanan’s cross to head the tournament’s fastest goal to date.
However, Croatia soon took control and after Milan Borjan twice denied Livaj either side of a disallowed goal at Kramariče, two goals before half-time turned the game on its head.
Borjan did not respond to Kramarič, who squeezed into the next end, and Livaja scored from the edge of the goal with minimal effort.
John Herdman’s men entered the second half with renewed optimism and went just wide through substitute Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David, but Kramaric continued to threaten and clinically picked out the bottom left corner to equalise.
Croatia had time to add some extra polish as poor Kamal Miller mishandled himself midway through to give Mislav Oršić a clear path to advance and unselfishly tee up Majer.
Croatia vs Canada player ratings
1. Croatia (4-3-3)
GK: Dominik Livakovic – 6/10 – Helpless on the Davies goal but made a couple of important interventions afterwards.
RB: Josip Juranovic – 7/10 – Could be accused of ball-watching on the opening goal but the speed at which Davies crashed into the box was tremendous. Did well to set up Croatia’s second.
CB: Dejan Lovren – 5/10 – Didn’t enjoy defending against that pacey Canadian attack one bit. Kept his composure on the ball, at least.
CB: Josko Gvardiol – 7/10 – Coped better than Lovren and helped Croatia get out with some driving runs through the middle.
LB: Borna Sosa – 6/10 – Struggled early on against Buchanan but got to grips with him eventually. Got forward well.
CM: Luka Modric – 7/10 – Showed excellent composure in what was a chaotic clash.
CM: Marcelo Brozovic – 7/10 – Metronomic in midfield, calling on all of his technical and physical attributes to give Croatia control.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 9/10 – Canada couldn’t deal with the driving runs of Kovacic, who unsettled and destabilised the opposition all night.
RW: Marko Livaja – 7/10 – Took his goal brilliantly but was very quiet otherwise. The obvious choice to bring off as Croatia looked to re-energise.
ST: Andrej Kramaric – 9/10 – Showed ice-cool composure to finish two of his big chances and, on another night, could’ve had more. Always a threat.
LW: Ivan Perisic – 8/10 – Vintage Perisic. Worked relentlessly to disrupt Canada and still had the energy to drop two assists.
SUB: Bruno Petkovic (60′, for Livaja) – 5/10 – Never really found his rhythm.
SUB: Nikola Vlasic (73′, for Kramaric) – 5/10 – Didn’t get into the game.
SUB: Mislav Orsic (86′, for Perisic) – 7/10 – Pounced on a Miller mistake to set up the fourth goal.
SUB: Mario Pasalic (86′, for Modric) – N/A
SUB: Lovro Majer (86′, for Kovacic) – 7/10 – Helped himself to a late goal.
2. Canada (4-2-4)
GK: Milan Borjan – 5/10 – Made some good saves but was beaten three times and had a few other nervous moments.
RB: Alistair Johnston – 5/10 – Needed more help from those around him, often finding himself isolated. Lacked a little composure on the ball.
CB: Steven Vitoria – 5/10 – Battled hard but struggled to cope with the mobility of Croatia’s forward line.
CB: Kamal Miller – 5/10 – Probably Canada’s best defender but made a terrible mistake in the final moments.
LB: Richie Laryea – 6/10 – Put in an immense amount of effort early in the match, causing him to fade quite quickly.
CM: Atiba Hutchinson – 3/10 – His 100th cap didn’t go to plan. The game often passed Hutchinson by with the midfielder’s 39 years of age showing with a serious lack of pace.
CM: Stephen Eustaquio – 6/10 – Tidy on the ball and effective on the ball but struggled with an injury as the first half went on. Subbed out at half-time.
RW: Tajon Buchanan – 7/10 – Provided a beautiful assist for the opening goal and was one of Canada’s best outlets all night with his pace and trickery.
ST: Cyle Larin – 3/10 – Nowhere near as effective as his attacking teammates. Barely got into the game and was brought off at half-time.
ST: Jonathan David – 5/10 – One strong effort from distance aside, this just wasn’t David’s night.
LW: Alphonso Davies – 8/10 – Made history with Canada’s first-ever goal at a World Cup. Continued to frighten the life out of Croatia with his pace and skill, but often made the wrong decision in key attacking moments.
SUB: Jonathan Osorio (46′, for Eustaquio) – 6/10 – Did a good job in restoring calm to the Canadian midfield.
SUB: Ismael Kone (46′, for Larin) – 6/10 – A very mature, composed performance from the CF Montreal youngster.
SUB: Junior Hoilett (62′, for Laryea) – 5/10 – Failed to change the game.
SUB: Lucas Cavallini (72′, for David) – 4/10 – Barely touched the ball.
SUB: Sam Adekugbe (73′, for Hutchinson) – 6/10 – Neat and tidy on the ball.