Andrej Kramaric’s brace helped Croatia come from a goal down to defeat Canada 4-1 and boost the team’s chances of qualifying for the knockout round of the 2022 World Cup.
Canada were on the front foot from the first whistle, and within two minutes, Tajon Buchanan’s great cross into space in the box was met by a storming Alphonso Davies, who powered a header into the back of the net.
The goal, which was scored after 1:08, was Canada’s first-ever goal in a men’s World Cup finals, the fastest of the tournament so far, and the quickest World Cup goal since Denmark Mathias Jorgensen’s against Croatia in 2018.
Canada continued to threaten in the opening minutes of the half but were unable to further test Dominik Livakovic, something they’d come to regret as in the 36th minute, Croatia scored their first. Some great feet from Ivan Perisic saw him lay off the ball to Kramaric, who squeezed the ball past Milan Borjan from a tight angle into the far post.
The Croatian’s second came just on the brink of half-time after an extended period of pressure, with Marko Livaja taking a touch and firing a shot to beat Borjan.
Canada changed their set-up in the second-half, placing Davies up top as a striker, and while they had a few more bright moments, the game was put to bed in the 70th minute, with Kramaric getting his brace. He received the ball from Perisic and was able to shoot through the legs of Atiba Hutchinson and into the bottom corner.
Croatia scored a fourth in added time as Canada chased a consolation after a Kamal Miller mistake allowed them to break. Mislav Orsic laid it off for Lovro Majer to score an easy goal which Brojan could do nothing about.
The fourth goal may not have meant much in the context of the game, but it allows Croatia to slide into the top spot of Group F on goal difference. They will now look to qualify for the knockout rounds against European counterparts Belgium, while Canada will face off against Morocco.
TALKING POINT: CROATIA HAVE ARRIVED
The 2018 finalists looked lacklustre in their opening match against Morocco, but they have certainly made a statement tonight. After going a goal down early, they were a bit frantic at first, but Zlatko Dalic’s men managed to put a calm, composed game plan in to action, which led to four goals, and a scintillating display of counter-attacking football. While John Herdman’s side had impressive and exciting moments, Croatia’s ability to keep the ball, recycle possession, and take advantage of the mistakes made by an inexperienced midfield and back-line made all the difference.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: ANDREJ KRAMARIC
The win was certainly a team effort, but you cannot look past the main man himself tonight. Two incredibly decisive goals to get his side back into the match, and he was constantly a nuisance for Kamal Miller and Steven Vitoria to deal with. Not only did he score twice, but he missed two other big chances. Croatia were lacking a goal threat against Morocco, and they seemed to have found one now in Kramaric.
Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic were also huge assets to the Croatian win, with the former being the first to find his footing after going a goal down and coming up big with four key passes and two big chances created, while the latter assisted twice. Both get honourable mentions.
CROATIA: Livakovic 6, Juranovic 6, Lovren 6, Gvardiol 7, Sosa 7, Modric 7, Brozovic 6, Kovacic 8, Kramaric 9, Livaja 7, Perisic 8…. Subs: Orsic 7, Majer 7, Vlasic 6, Petkovic 6, Pasalic 6.
CANADA: Borjan 6, Laryea 6, Johnston 6, Vitoria 6, Miller 5, Davies 7, Buchanan 7, Hutchinson 6, Eustaquio 6, Larin 6, David 6…. Subs: Adekugbe 6, Kone 6, Osorio 6, Hoilett 6, Cavallini 6.
2′ – GOAL! CROATIA 0-1 CANADA: A beautiful cross from Buchanan into space and Davies runs into space, and a powering header puts the Canadians ahead!
36′ – GOAL! CROATIA 1-1 CANADA: It comes from a great move from Perisic, who nutmegs Johnston, and Kramaric is able to squeeze it in.
44′ – GOAL! CROATIA 2-1 CANADA: Livaja has turned it around with an exceptional finish from long range as Brojan is beaten with his low shot.
70′ – GOAL! CROATIA 3-1 CANADA: Kramaric takes a touch to bring himself closer to the net before powering in a low shot into the corner.
94′ – GOAL! CROATIA 4-1 CANADA: Miller has come out to try and get Canada on the attack, and he misreads the ball, allowing Croatia to counter. It’s the easiest goal Majer will ever score, who slots it home after receiving it from Orsic.