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Winners & Losers

From Davies ecstasy to World Cup agony: Canada winners, losers and ratings as Croatia loss ends Qatar dream

20:31 SAST 2022/11/27
Canada Croatia GFX
The young Canadian team was dealt another harsh lesson as they crashed out of the World Cup after just two games

The sound rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium. Some fans still hadn't found their seats but, even if the pitch wasn't in view, they would have heard the moment Alphonso Davies and Canada created history.

It was just over a minute into Sunday's group stage clash with Croatia and, after losing 1-0 to Belgium in their opener, it appeared Canada had learned their lesson. They were wasteful then, but they wouldn't be tonight. Davies headed home Tajon Buchanan's cross and the crowd erupted; Canada had scored at the World Cup for the first time and were in the lead.

But this inexperienced Canadian team learned another harsh lesson on Sunday. Facing a team that knows better than most what it takes to go far in this tournament, Canada's naivety, on the field and off, was put on full display. Because of that, their World Cup dream is now over.

In the end, Croatia ran away with it, dominating the 89 minutes or so that followed Davies' heroic opener. It finished 4-1, with two goals from Andrej Kramaric and one each from Mark Livaja and Lovro Majer.

Croatia have many things Canada do not. They have experience, know-how and guile. They may not have the pace, but they have the brains. And, ultimately, they also have Luka Modric, a player that can dictate where and how a game is played better than most we've ever seen.

Canada have none of those things, at least not yet. They may never have a Modric of their own, although one would be nice. But, on the road to their own World Cup in 2026, Canada have been dealt another harsh lesson about what it means to play at this level.

  • Alphonso Davies Canada 2022

    The Winners

    Alphonso Davies:

    After missing his penalty against Belgium, Alphonso Davies shrunk just a bit. You could tell it impacted him. From the moment Thibaut Courtois pushed his spot kick to the side, he didn't look like himself. Against Croatia, he looked like Alphonso Davies. Quick, dynamic, confident and direct. And it didn't take him long to provide a goal that Canadians had waited a lifetime for. Fans at Khalifa Stadium had to wait just over a minute for Davies to rattle the back of the net, sending the crowd, and Canada's bench, into a frenzy. It's only fitting that Canada's first men's superstar scored the country's first men's World Cup goal. It had to be him. He didn't quite get a second, although he did well in driving Canada forward at times. But this tag is less about his performance and more about his moment; one that, although it came in defeat, will be remembered for a long, long time. With Canada's elimination confirmed, the road to 2026 begins. And, by responding to his initial failure, Davies is clearly ready to lead his country back to this stage in four years.

    Croatia's old guard:

    The 2018 World Cup runners-up looked old against Morocco. They looked very little like the team that captured the hearts of many on their way to that final in Russia, instead looking like a group that would be unable to recreate the same magic four years later in Qatar. A win over Canada isn't quite a coronation, but it was a good sign for Croatia to see their familiar faces step up. The midfield trio was... well, the midfield trio. You know what you're going to get from Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic more times than not. Those three are remarkably reliable and they know very well what will be asked of them in a World Cup setting. They were simply a level above Canada, as should be expected. Tougher challenges will await.

    Andrej Kramaric:

    What a performance this was from the Hoffenheim forward. Kramaric scored two, and would have had another if not for an offside call in the buildup. He was deadly in the box for the Croatians, who didn't waste many of their chances in the 4-1 win. The 32-year-old forward was nowhere near this effective back in 2018, where he scored just one goal in seven matches as more of a part-time player. And after a scoreless draw with Morocco, there were some questions about where Croatia would find their goals. Well, they've found them from Kramaric, who will likely need to score a few more if Croatia want to make another run.

  • Atiba Hutchinson Canada 2022

    The Losers

    Atiba Hutchinson:

    Hutchinson will turn 40 in February. He's a legendary figure in Canada and, even still, a key member of this national team. But he looked his age against Croatia. Facing what might just be the premier midfield in international soccer, Hutchinson was well off the pace as Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic danced around Canada's two-man midfield. Being outplayed by Croatia? There's no shame in that, but Hutchinson's worst moment was entirely preventable. He simply fell asleep at the wheel on Kramaric's opener, failing to track his run for what ended up as a simple finish. At halftime, he was left on as Steven Eustaquio was sacrificed, perhaps due to injury. Two games in four days is a big ask for someone Hutchinson's age. It's an even bigger ask against Croatia. It probably wasn't the right call.

    John Herdman:

    Back in Croatia, the pregame talk centered around Canada's coach and his comments. After narrowly losing to Belgium, Herdman was heard firing up his players by saying "F*** Croatia", and the opposition didn't take it kindly. They mocked Herdman and his... manhood, putting him in the spotlight ahead of this match. And it all fell apart for Canada and their coach. Losing to Croatia isn't something to fault him for, but the manner in which they lost felt somewhat preventable. Playing a two-man midfield that included a 39-year-old on four days rest was a risk. It didn't pay off. And, as it became clear that it wasn't working, Herdman tried to usher his team to halftime before making changes. It didn't pay off. By the time Canada got there, it was 2-1 and the game was virtually gone. Herdman is a fantastic manager who has revolutionized Canadian soccer. The players love him and would run through a wall for him. Some other nation or club will likely love him someday. But he got it wrong on Sunday, and now it'll be Croatia's turn to have fun at his expense.

    Jonathan David:

    This tournament felt like it could be Jonathan David's coming-out party. The talented Lille forward, just 22-years-old, is destined for the top, and this was his moment to show it to a worldwide audience that hadn't seen it before. That audience still hasn't seen the best of David, though, because he hasn't brought it to Qatar. David was almost invisible for Canada throughout the loss to Croatia, having struggled in the Belgium game as well. He had one good chance, a shot that Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic tipped over the bar but, other than that, he was anonymous. It's a shame, too, because David is that good. He's often overshadowed by Davies and, someday, he'll join his countrymate by playing for one of the world's best clubs. He hasn't been at that level in Qatar, though, although he'll have one more game against Morocco to show it.

  • Milan Borjan Canada 2022

    Canada Ratings: Defense

    Milan Borjan (8/10):

    Multiple fantastic saves to prevent the scoreline from being worse than it was.

    Alphonso Davies (7/10):

    Got the goal early of course, and had a few winding runs through the midfield. Never got too close to another before it was all over, but he looked the most likely to create it.

    Kamal Miller (3/10):

    Was great in the opener, but will lose sleep over the mess that lead to Croatia's fourth. He'd pushed Modric just minutes earlier and was seemingly punished by the soccer gods with a horrible mistake.

    Steven Vitoria (4/10):

    Was caught out of position several times. Defense needed to be near perfect, and Vitoria was far from it.

    Alistair Johnston (4/10):

    Made a few good tackles, but was way too sloppy on and off the ball. Perhaps this just isn't the system for him.

    Richie Laryea (6/10):

    Was yanked in the second half to facilitate a formation switch with Canada still only down a goal. Was probably the only defender that can feel okay about his performance.

  • Atiba Hutchinson Canada 2022

    Midfield

    Steven Eustaquio (6/10):

    Was the better of the two midfielders in the first half. Yanked at halftime, perhaps because of a knock.

    Atiba Hutchinson (3/10):

    Lost Kramaric on Croatia's equalizer. Just simply couldn't prevent Croatia from running wild. Deserved his moment in the spotlight with his country, but wasn't made for this game.

  • Tajon Buchanan Canada 2022

    Attack

    Jonathan David (4/10):

    Was invisible until he forced a save from Livakovic early in the second half. And that was about it for another disappointing day.

    Cyle Larin (6/10):

    Underrated part of the opening goal, but didn't find the game much after that. Pulled at halftime to bring on an extra midfielder.

    Tajon Buchanan (6/10):

    Active and energetic once again, putting Croatia on the backfoot a few times. Didn't track back enough, though, further exposing a midfield that needed all the help they could get.

  • John Herdman Canada 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Jonathan Osorio (6/10):

    Briefly stopped the Croatian tidal wave, which did end up resuming by the time it was all over

    Ismael Kone (7/10):

    Another incredible moment for the young midfielder, who actually looked really good against Croatia's stars. Build around him for the next decade, Canada.

    Junior Hoilett (6/10):

    A few decent looks late after being dropped for Larin at the start. Couldn't get his shot through the Croatia defense.

    Lucas Cavallini (N/A):

    Replaced David, but didn't add too much.

    Sam Adekugbe: (N/A):

    Game was already gone by the time he came on.

    John Herdman (4/10):

    Had his team ready to play, as evidenced by the early goal, but World Cups need more than just vibes. Midfield selection was questionable, as was his inability to react once it became clear how bad it all was.