AL RAYYAN, Qatar -- Canada were eliminated from the World Cup after a 4-1 defeat to Croatia at Khalifa International Stadium on Sunday.
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Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies scored Canada's first World Cup goal after just 67 seconds, but Croatia staged an impressive comeback thanks to two goals from Andrej Kramaric, another from Marko Livaja, and a late fourth from Lovro Majer to sit atop Group F with one round of games left to play. Croatia will look to book the top spot when they play Morocco, while Canada will bow out after their game against Belgium.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Canada get first World Cup goal, but they're going home early
It started so well for Canada when Davies got their first-ever men's national team goal at a World Cup after just 67 seconds, but after being gradually picked apart by Croatia, they're going home early.
Canada are entertaining and matched two good sides in Belgium and Croatia for large spells, yet they also looked like a team playing in their first World Cup since 1986. It takes time to get used to this level. After failing to score in their only previous World Cup appearance at Mexico '86, Davies sent the Canada fans wild in their corner of Khalifa International Stadium with the quickest goal of the tournament so far, thumping a header in from Tajon Buchanan's inch-perfect cross.
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But by half-time, the blocks of red shirts were slumped back in their seats after goals from Andrej Kramaric and Marko Livaja put Croatia 2-1 up. The introductions of Jonathan Osorio and Ismael Kone at the break gave Canada fresh impetus, but when Kramaric got his second on 70 minutes, they knew they could start packing their bags. The fourth on the break from substitute Lovro Majer added insult to injury.
Canada will be back in 2026 as co-hosts, of course, while Croatia's experienced core of Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren and Ivan Perisic will be plotting one last unlikely run.
2. Croatia back in their familiar tournament role
Despite their remarkable run to the World Cup final in 2018, no one really knew what to expect of Croatia in Qatar, but maybe that's just how they like it. They're a team caught between an aging golden generation -- led by Modric -- and a wave of new talent like 20-year-old RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol, and it has made for some inconsistent performances.
They proved they can still match anyone with a 1-0 win over France in Paris in June, but they were poor against Morocco in their opening group game and were cut open with ease by Canada for Davies' early goal. Even during their run to the final in 2018, they needed penalties to beat Denmark and Russia in the knockout rounds.
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But even with their obvious deficiencies as a team -- particularly at the back -- they know exactly what it takes to progress at major tournaments, and if they escape from Group F, no one is going to want to face them in the last 16. Their run in Russia was all about finding a way to get through, and it might be the same in Qatar. You've been warned.
3. Disappointment for Canada, but valuable experience ahead of 2026
Canada were the better team against Belgium in their opening game and were all over Croatia for the first 20 minutes here, and while John Herdman's team will have won plenty of fans, they sit bottom of Group F with two defeats from two.
In some respects, it's remarkable they made it at all after being ranked as low as 122nd by FIFA not long after the 2014 World Cup. But they will have learned some valuable lessons ahead of 2026 when they will share hosting duties with the United States and Mexico. In Davies and David in particular, they have players with talent and ability, but to prosper at this level, you also need experience and nous to manage key moments in a game, which was perhaps what they lacked during this World Cup campaign.
Croatia did well to minimize the damage when Canada were on top early on, but when it was Croatia's turn to put their foot down, Canada conceded twice in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Had Canada been able to slow things down and make it to half-time at 1-1, it might have been a different story.
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic 6; Josip Juranovic 5, Dejan Lovren 6, Josko Gvardiol 7, Borna Sosa 6; Luka Modric 7, Marcelo Brozovic 6, Mateo Kovacic 8; Andrej Kramaric 8, Marko Livaja 7, Ivan Perisic 7.
Subs: Bruno Petkovic 6, Nikola Vlasic 6, Mario Pasalic 6, Mislav Orsic 6, Lovro Majer 6.
Canada: Milan Borjan 8; Alistair Johnston 6, Steven Vitoria 6, Kamal Miller 5, Richie Laryea 6; Tajon Buchanan 7, Atiba Hutchinson 5, Stephen Eustaquio 6, Alphonso Davies 7; Jonathan David 6, Cyle Larin 6.
Subs: Jonathan Osorio 6, Ismael Kone 6, Junior Hoilett 6, Lucas Cavallini 6, Samuel Adekugbe 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Milan Borjan, Canada
Canada's veteran goalkeeper made a string of saves to keep the score down.
WORST: Josip Juranovic, Croatia
Completely lost Davies for Canada's opening goal and was lucky to get away with another poor mistake shortly afterward.
Highlights and notable moments
While the result wasn't what Canada fans wanted, Davies' first goal for the men's national team at a World Cup certainly was a delight.
CANADA HAS SCORED ITS FIRST EVER FIFA WORLD CUP GOAL 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/aF2CBvGUFz— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 27, 2022
Judging by the celebrations in Vancouver, where Davies first started his pro soccer journey, they enjoyed it almost as much as he did.
CANADA'S FIRST GOAL BY NONE OTHER THAN PHONZIE!!! #VWFC | #CANMNT pic.twitter.com/JVbtr48Y70— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) November 27, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
"I want to thank Canada's coach for the motivation. We demonstrated who F'd whom." -- Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric
"I think there's a respect there for Croatia," he said. "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." -- Canada manager John Herdman
"I'm very happy for the moment," Davies said to TSN after the match. "I'm disappointed in the result. It's not easy to take defeat. We needed those three points." -- Canada forward Alphonso Davies, to TSN
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Alphonso Davies: his goal after one minute, seven seconds was the fastest goal of his career across all competitions. His previous fastest was 4:08 in 2017 with Vancouver against New York Red Bull.
Croatia have never lost at the World Cup when leading at halftime (5-0-0).
Andrej Kramaric joins Mario Mandzukic (2014 group stage vs. Cameroon) as the only Croatian players with multigoal games at the World Cup.
Ivan Perisic is the first Croatian player with two assists in a single World Cup match.
Croatia: The Group F leaders face Belgium up next at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in a game that could see either side advance or be eliminated depending on the result.
Canada: With their World Cup exit confirmed Sunday, they're playing for pride -- and hopefully a few more goals -- against Morocco on Thursday at Al Thumama Stadium.