DOHA, Qatar — The question came, as expected, and Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric gave a smile, as expected.
Did the comments from Canada head coach John Herdman, about how his players were going to “f— Croatia,” serve to fire up the Croatians ahead of this critical game?
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
“I want to thank Canada’s coach for the motivation,” Kramaric said shortly after scoring two goals in Croatia’s 4-1 rout over Canada on Sunday, sending the North American team crashing out of the World Cup.
“We demonstrated who f—ed whom,” he added.
Canada led inside two minutes through a superb Alphonso Davies header, but Croatia hit back with two goals in the first half and another pair of strikes in the second to secure a comfortable win.
Herman’s comments ahead of the match led to a Croatian tabloid putting his face on its cover in a graphic illustration that questioned whether Canada had the guts to win the game.
When asked if he had any regrets, Herdman said: “Not in the first 20 minutes, no.
“I think there’s a respect there for Croatia,” he added. “As I keep saying, we’re here to push as far as we can. We’re here to change the mentality of the group. I could have been a little bit more composed coming out of that one, but that’s my learning. I’ll take that one on the chin. But I think we showed in those first 25 minutes that little Canada can compete with the world.”
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic demanded respect ahead of the match, and he had little more to say afterward, though he did note that Herdman did not come to shake his hand after the defeat.
“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” Dalic said. “He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He is a high-quality professional but it will take some time for him to learn some things.”
Croatia are joint leaders in Group F with just one game remaining, while Canada sit an insurmountable four points behind, eliminating them from the tournament.
Davies’ early goal made history — it was Canada’s first-ever goal at a men’s World Cup — but the side failed to sustain that energy.
“I’m very happy for the moment,” Davies told TSN after the match. “I’m disappointed in the result. It’s not easy to take defeat. We needed those three points.”
Herdman praised Croatia’s attack and was left to point at his team’s final match as an opportunity to make a different sort of history, as Canada are still in search of their first men’s World Cup victory.
“We got to celebrate something we’d been waiting a long time for,” Herdman said of Davies’ goal. “[But] when you open yourself up to a team like Croatia, they’re going to be clinical in transition. I thought they gave a master class in transition.
“I’m proud of what [the players] achieved tonight. They’ll be hurting. But then we look forward. There’s still a lot for us to play for.”