JAKARTA – Croatia have reached the semi-finals twice in their last five World Cup appearances, including the 2018 final in Russia. Three times they failed to pass the group stage.
But this time they can qualify for the knockout stage for the third time when they face Canada at Al Bayt Stadium in their second Group F game on Sunday night.
Croatia have a lot to improve on, not least the finesse of their attacking line, which only managed two shots on target as they were held 0-0 by Morocco.
The result left them two points behind leaders Belgium who beat Canada 1-0 as Croatia could take just one point from their game against Morocco.
If they come back to a draw, Croatia’s next trip will be even steeper, given that the last opponent they faced was world No. 2 Belgium.
For this reason, Croatia showed another face, more clinical against Canada, because if not like that, they must be ready to create a great irony at the 2022 World Cup, namely to enter the arena with the status of World Cup qualifying group winners and 2018 World Cup finalists but even started faster than this competition.
For this reason, Croatia need to improve their performance, especially since Canada, who are ranked first in the Concacaf qualifying group, performed well against Belgium in this second World Cup.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic hopes their lackluster performance against Morocco is more down to a late heat than major problems in the team’s foundations.
Dalic also struggles with his current side constantly being compared to the 2018 side when they reached the final before being beaten 4-2 by world champions France in Moscow.
Dalic didn’t want to look back. “Four and a half years have passed and Croatia have an almost completely new national team. We cannot compare two different generations of players,” Dalic said. “We are ready to keep fighting.”
In fact, Croatia must be ready to give their all because Canada also wants to live up to its chances of survival in this tournament.
His status as Concacaf Zone Qualifiers champion ahead of Mexico and USA was confirmed against Belgium in his first game.
John Herdman’s team made things difficult for Belgium who even came close to creating a surprise if Alphonso Davies had not missed a penalty. Canada was only stopped by a goal from Michy Batshuayi.
Canada lost, but Herdman’s appearance against Belgium ensured that his team was not afraid to face strong teams, including Croatia.
In the Concacaf zone, they beat strong teams like Mexico and the United States. So there’s nothing they can’t do when they face Croatia later.
Eleven player predictions first
Croatia (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josif Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa; Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic; Mario Pasalic, Marko Livaja, Ivan Perisic.
Canada (3-4-3): Milan Borjan; Alistair Johnston, Steven Vitoria, Kamal Miller; Rochie Laryea, Atiba Hutchinson, Stephen Eustaquio, Alphonso Davies; Junior Hoilett, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan.
Although they didn’t lose, Croatia looked very disappointing in their first game against Morocco.
It’s because they couldn’t create meaningful goalscoring opportunities, as if they were playing in a different class, as the Croatian people haven’t always experienced.
Their line of defense didn’t really take a hit from the Moroccan attacks, but their strength in the final third seemed to have faded without a trace.
Morocco actually created more chances even though they had much less ball possession.
Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic is well aware of this. He knew for sure that this situation couldn’t last any longer when he faced Canada who looked good against Belgium who were the favorites to win Group F.
Because of this, Dalic’s first job is to fine-tune his attack system again. Attackers need to be even more clinical.
But that probably won’t change much in the composition of Croatian players. The defense and midfield will probably be the same as against Morocco.
Changes are possible in attack, but more because striker Nikola Vlasic fears not being too fit, not because of his performance against Morocco.
But whether it’s Vlasic or not, Mario Pasalic and Marko Livaja will now accompany Ivan Perisic in attack. This attacking trio will try to be even more clinical, besides Canada will perhaps not appear as defensive as Morocco.
The midfield trio – Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic – are also ready to help sharpen their team’s sharpness again.
Likewise, centre-back duo Josko Gvardiol and Dejan Lovren remain the main defenders with goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic assisted by Borna Sosa and Josif Juranovic on both wings of defence.
Canada will also not reshuffle the roster of its first 11 players, as they performed well against Belgium.
Surprisingly, they proved to be more authoritative towards Belgium as they unleashed 22 attempts to penetrate the opposing goal, three of which were on target. Belgium could only make 9 attempts.
Rochie Laryea and Bayern star Muencehen Alphonso Davies returned to the back of defense but were positioned higher at midfield duo Atiba Hutchinson and Stephen Eustaquio, who ensured Canada tried to regain control ball traffic and creating chances.
They will actively help the attacking trio of Junior Hoilett, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan suppress the Croatian defense in a 3-4-3 formation.
Meanwhile, the trio of centre-backs Alistair Johnston, Steven Vitoria and Kamal Miller have once again become goalkeeper Milan Borjan’s main protection.
Important stats for both teams
This is Canada’s first meeting with Croatia.
Croatia reached the semi-finals on their debut in the 1998 World Cup final. Twenty years later, they reached the 2018 World Cup final only to lose 2-4 to eventual world champions Croatia. France.
Canada has never scored a goal in a World Cup. In their first appearance in the 1986 World Cup final, they were knocked out of the group stage scoreless without scoring a goal.
Before reaching the 2018 final, Croatia became the first side in a World Cup to beat another opponent after conceding the first goal in three straight round of 16 matches.
Canada top the Concacaf World Cup 2022 Qualifying standings having scored more goals and conceded the fewest than any other Concacaf side.
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