Canada was one spot away from making history on Wednesday. But the FIFA World Cup is nothing if not brutal – even for the most deserving – with its moment of defensive slack, lack of composure in front of goal and miserly performance from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Canada’s heartbreaking loss to Belgium In the opening match of the tournament in Qatar.
Now, after that unfair (but very real) defeat, Canada can’t afford to lose to Croatia, or else their World Cup dreams – 36 years in the making – would come to a halt, just like that.
Of course, after playing the world’s approx. 2 – Belgium off the field Confidence in the Canadian camp should be higher than ever. They’ve proven that they can not only hang out with adults, but even outsmart them.
“We’re not afraid of anyone,” said forward Tajon Buchanan. “We’ve shown we can compete now. We competed with Belgium and obviously came out without points. But that happens sometimes.”
With that first hurdle out of the way, the Canadian team will now hope they have picked up their nerve and are ready to take the game to Croatia in hopes of a result that will preserve their chances of qualifying for the last 16.
“We just have to keep the same mentality [from Belgium] “Get into the next game and finish our chances,” Buchanan said. “I have no doubt we can do it.”
Croatia, despite being held 0-0 with Morocco on Wednesday, should feel vulnerable to the pace and pressure Canada successfully applied against Belgium. While Croatia may not sit back and absorb the pressure in the same way the Belgians did, the two teams have a similar composition, led by a string of veterans who have carried their country through international tournaments in the past decade.
At the center of that group is the mercurial midfielder Luka Modric – the 37-year-old who won everything there is to win at club level with Real Madrid in Spain, and who comes agonizingly close to getting his hands on the World Cup. Cinderella is a finalist in Russia in 2018.
Although they are a talented bunch, Croatia’s success depends heavily on Modric’s form, and they lack attacking without the midfielder’s deep playmaking abilities.
Canada, meanwhile, should not be intimidated by the task of keeping Modric in check, after taming Kevin De Bruyne – who was on par, if not better than Modric on his best days – in their opening match of the tournament. De Bruyne was baffled by the decision to award him the Man of the Match award in that competition, saying he did not think he had “played a good game”.
Croatia is more likely to demand more from the ball than the Belgian team, which, ironically, plays into the hands of the Canadians. John Herdman’s side may have struggled to break down a tough defensive block against Belgium, but they excel on the counter-attack, and can do the most damage using their speed into space.
Croatia is more vulnerable to Canadian strengths than Belgium was, and De Bruyne and Co. Beat Canada at their own game.
“We know we can play at this level,” said defender Alistair Johnston. “I think having that now in our back pockets after playing against Belgium in that opening game just helped the group. The morale is incredibly high and I’ve never seen that after a loss.”
Unfortunately, the Croats have an extra catalytic factor heading into Sunday’s duel, with the national team and their fans reeling after Herdman said Canada will “Croatia” After losing to Belgium.
“I don’t mean disrespectful to the Croatian national team and the Croatian people, but at the end of the day, it’s a mentality Canada will have if we have three points against one of the best teams in the world,” he said. . “And that’s the mentality we have in Belgium. We have to do it.”
The Croatian media didn’t buy that explanation, however, and the Canada coach dragged the bench in the mud in the days leading up to the now highly anticipated clash.
However, the Canadian players are supportive of their coach, and don’t mind the extra motivation – from both sides – that heads into the game.
“We don’t mind if it piles up a bit in the media,” Johnston said. “It’s a bit of fun, it gets more exciting around the match, not just in Canada and Croatia, but other countries as well.
“You have a little extra interest in the game, so I think that’s exciting for us.”
The table is set for what should be a stellar match between two nations still trying to establish themselves in Qatar. Canada Make an impression on the worldBut it’s time to turn good feelings into results.
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