Steiner’s Breakdown: Canada eliminated from World Cup against Croatia

This article was initially posted as a Twitter thread, breaking down Canada’s 4-1 loss to Croatia at the FIFA Men’s World Cup.

– In the early stages, Canada did well to exploit the flanks, and Croatia hadn’t shut down those pathways.

– Larin created and exploited space in transition, leading to a pass for Buchanan’s cross for Davies’ goal.

What I like about the goal is Larin’s recognition that the midfield pocket was available and how he could adjust last second before seeking a pass to Buchanan. Also made sure he could run into the box, drawing a man away from Davies, who scored. Started well, for sure.

There were early warning signs for later in the match, though. In the 6th minute, Hutchinson doesn’t cover a space, and Buchanan is caught flat-footed and level with Hutchinson. Croatia exploits the space and creates a chance, which was one of the many repeated things.

16th minute. The first time Croatia really showed their midfield ability to make quick decisions. They lose possession but quickly regain it through a bad touch from Johnston. With three players all close, they play quickly before finding the wide outlet. (EXAMPLE BELOW)

22nd minute. Kovacic receives the ball around 35 yards out and catches Hutchinson facing perpendicular to the play. Takes a second for Hutchinson to get going, but by the time he’s up to full speed, there’s a chance in the box. Borjan does well to read the mistake. (EXAMPLES BELOW)

(PART OF PLAY #1)
(PROGRESSION OF PLAY #2 TO CREAT THE CHANCE)

24th minute, but this was consistent for Canada through the majority of the match. Davies and Hutchinson at the top of the box, playing off each before going out wide for an inswinging cross. 2 solid banks for Croatia impenetrable, and Modric as a counter-attacking outlet. (EXAMPLE BELOW)

35th minute. Around this time, I started to sense that a goal was certain to be coming for Croatia. Look at Modric here, once again settling in a pocket in front of Hutchinson, and making a decision before he gets marked. He turns on the pass and sends Kovacic through. (EXAMPLE BELOW)

CROATIA GOAL | Hutchinson caught watching the distributing pass and then caught not on the goal side of Kramaric, who ran past to create a clear, albeit sharp, chance at goal. Scores to put Croatia level with Canada at 1-1 in the 36th minute.

CROATIA GOAL | There’s not a ton to take away from this goal; scored on another wave of Croatian pressure. Quick 1-2 pass to get by Davies, a mistimed tackle from Kamal Miller and a wonder strike that left Borjan with little chance.

HALFTIME | My main first-half takeaway, especially after the 15th minute, was Hutchinson and Eustaquio’s inability to adjust to a deeper Croatian buildup and failure to close spaces that Croatia exploited. Larin/David wasn’t supporting either. Hutchinson shouldn’t have started second, as he was gassed and couldn’t keep up with the play throughout the first half. Croatia is simply too quick on and off the ball in transition.

Canada started the second half well, but only for brief spells. Taking out Laryea, despite his failure to track back, removed an asset that the #CanMNT used in the first half. The adjustment to add midfielders left Canada lacking up top.

Jonathan Osorio made an instant impact and nearly scored a worldly to put Canada back into this one. Around this point, Davies also shifted into a near outright central striker, as well as switching to a back 3/5, which didn’t work. (EXAMPLE BELOW)

A positive and patient buildup for Canada, something they didn’t do much through the second half. Johnston does a nice job of showing for Davies and picking out Osorio, who was aware of Buchanan cutting in on the holdup. It created a scoring chance, and showed Canada reverting to a bit of the template they needed to dissect the Croatian lines. (EXAMPLE BELOW)

69th. Koné was a certain bright spot in the second half, and this linkup with Davies just shows how patient Canada can be on the ball. 2026 thoughts here, and I would bet with 3.5 more years, Koné’s pass reaches a target. Great holdup and turn.

(INSERT LATER)

CROATIA GOAL | This one starts with a Hutchinson giveaway at a point where he probably should have been subbed out. Buildup finds Perisic, and a deft touch from Kramaric to get past Miller gave a near unmissable shot. Small mistakes are punished at the World Cup, and the CanMNT learned that in this match.

From this point, a lot of Canada’s attacks became desperate and anxious. No doubt chasing the lead directly, but the few things that had brought the CanMNT success were abandoned. Osorio and Koné continued to stay patient, might’ve been the only ones, however.

If we’re looking hard for them at this point when Croatia dominated, other positives were Borjan’s confident saves and Hoilett’s attacking moves. Liked Hoilett and how he changed the game today, a smart player who knows how to attack stingy systems.

CROATIA GOAL (4-1) | This one was the dagger. There’s not too much to analyze here. Canada had all but Miller forward, and the ball skipped by Miller, giving a surefire fourth goal for Croatia. Basically an empty net goal for those familiar with hockey.

FINAL: Croatia 4-1 Canada Canada eliminated. Koné and Osorio were bright spots in a tough second half, but this was a learning match for Canada and a wake-up call that the #CanMNT isn’t among the world’s top elite. The first goal is great, and onto 2026 the page flips.

One thought on “Steiner’s Breakdown: Canada eliminated from World Cup against Croatia

  1. Poor tactical set up. Starting only two (less than 100%) mids vs a threesome with over 300 caps between them? No Oso or Kone to start with

    Miller is overrated by GTA and Montreal supporters. Got caught way up the pitch playing hero ball when Hutchinson lost it on the third goal, then never got set up properly to deal with Kramaric after the lung busting recovery run. Needs to have another good season in Montreal to get that Euro move.

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