Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium was ‘statistically’, according to John Herdman, ‘a winning performance’ – and it’s easy to see why you think so.
Canada attempted 22 shots, double the previous World Cup record (11 against the USSR in 1986), with their attempts worth a total of 2.6 expected goals.
Belgium’s chances were worth 0.8 xG, but they scored decisively through Michy Batshuayi.
Canada has yet to score a World Cup goal from 50 shots. No team has played more final tournament matches (four) without scoring, with only Bolivia failing to score in their first five such matches.
Another ‘winning performance’ against Croatia will count for little if they fail to end that drought.
“It’s those behaviors that we’re going to continue to work on,” said coach Herdman. “This is what players see in the review meeting [after the Belgium game].
“And we need to fill some gaps ahead of this match against Croatia, who are a formidable team.”
That more measured praise from Croatia contrasted slightly with Herdman’s emotions immediately after the game, when he called on his Canadian players to “‘F'” their next opponents.
“That’s what the gentleman said, it’s his right,” replied Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. “I won’t dwell on this. We need to talk on the pitch.
“Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves. I just don’t know how nice it is to say something like that. I’ll talk about it with the players. It can only motivate us.”
It’s easy to see why Herdman might have been confident, though, had he witnessed Croatia’s goalless draw against Morocco.
The 2018 finalists made just five shots in that game, their lowest total in a single World Cup contest. They averaged 16.1 shots per game in Russia.
However, Canada have lost each of their first four World Cup matches and will be eliminated if the streak continues against Croatia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Croatia – Josko Gvardiol
Not many Croatia players have excelled against Morocco, but Gvardiol was one of them. He set Croatian World Cup records for passes attempted (115) and completions (102), although he may have more work to do defensively in this matchup based on Canada’s early performance. It’s an opportunity to impress for a man linked to a host of Europe’s leading clubs.
Canada – Jonathan David
Alphonso Davies may have squandered Canada’s clearest chance from the penalty spot, but David will equally regret a wasteful opening display. He had seven shots against Belgium, all from inside the box, but missed with every one of them. It was only the second example since 1966 of a player taking all of his seven shots from inside the box without bothering the goalkeeper (also Italy’s Paolo Barison against North Korea in 1966).
Even after the loss, Canada were one of the most impressive players in the first round of matches, but they are yet to face the finalists from the last World Cup – and supercomputer predictions back it up.
Croatia are 47.0% favorites according to Stats Perform’s AI model, with Canada having a 27.0% chance and the draw rated a little more unlikely at 26.0%.