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Croatia knocks out Canada

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Croatia got its World Cup campaign back on track as Andrej Kramaric’s double inspired a 4-1 win that eliminated Canada in Sunday’s Group F grudge match in Doha.

Zlatko Dalic’s side was stunned by Alphonso Davies’s second-minute opener at the Khalifa International Stadium.

But Hoffenheim forward Kramaric equalized and Marko Livaja put the 2018 World Cup runners-up ahead just before half-time.

Second-half goals from Kramaric and Lovro Majer ensured Croatia could celebrate its first win of the tournament after a goalless draw with Morocco in their first match.

Croatia sits on top of Group F, above Morocco on goal difference, and a draw in its final game against Belgium on Thursday would guarantee a Last 16 spot.

It was an especially sweet success for Croatia after Canada boss John Herdman irked Dalic’s men with his profane attempt to inspire his players after a 1-0 defeat against Belgium in their group opener.
In a television interview, Herdman told his players: “They belong here. And we’re going to go and eff Croatia.”

Dalic had taken exception to Herdman’s rant, insisting on Saturday that his team deserved “respect” from their opponents.

The Croatians let their football do the talking on Sunday, allowing them to seize control of a group blown wide open by Morocco’s shock 2-0 win against Belgium earlier.

Continuing the feud, Dalic claimed Herdman ignored him after the match when the coaches appeared to avoid the traditional handshake at the final whistle.

“I went on the pitch to see my players. I did not see the other head coach after the match. He was not there. That is his way of doing things,” Dalic said.

“He is a quality professional but it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

Asked if he made a mistake with his rant, Herdman was initially defiant, telling reporters: “Not in the first 20 minutes (of the Croatia game), no.”

But he eventually conceded he would learn from the controversy, saying: “I could have been a little more composed coming out of the huddle. That is my learning. I will take that on the chin.”

Canada competed gamely but has now lost all five matches in its World Cup history, with its only previous appearance in 1986 also ending in group-stage elimination.
Herdman’s team took just 68 seconds to rock Croatia when Tajon Buchanan crossed into the Croatia area and Davies timed his run perfectly to power a header past Dominik Livakovic from 10 yards.

Canada’s first ever World Cup goal was welcome redemption for Davies after the Bayern Munich star’s penalty was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium defeat.

But the fastest goal so far in this World Cup served as a wake-up call for Croatia.

With Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings, Croatia’s clever passing and movement gradually took a toll on Canada and they drew level in the 36th minute.

Kramaric was picked out by Ivan Perisic’s deft reverse pass into the Canada area and he took a touch before drilling a fine finish into the far corner from an acute angle.

Croatia was hitting stride and Hajduk Split forward Livaja, selected in place of Nikola Vlasic, repaid Dalic’s faith in the 44th minute.

Josip Juranovic’s run was halted just outside the Canada area, but Livaja pounced on the loose ball, nimbly shifting it out of his feet before sending a superb low strike past Milan Borjan.

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