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Canada’s World Cup Is Already Over

Canada's defender #02 Alistair Johnston (L) reacts after Croatia won the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Croatia and Canada at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022.
Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Canada had been attached almost surgically to the United States in this World Cup as a plucky young upstart ready to dent a few of the enduring preconceptions about who is who and what is what in the international game, but in a tournament that has been kind to upstarts, it turned out that the Canadians weren't that at all.

If that causes you to wonder whether the Americans are in for a hiding Tuesday by the tougher-than-you-think Iranians, well, the two actually aren't connected except by geography, language and nearly everything else, including CONCACAF (gesundheit). But if that relationship also involves the World Cup, the U.S. is hosed.

The Canadians were deeply routed, and the 4–1 final was kind to America's hat. Too much was made of Canadian coach John Herdman's seeming diss of the Croatian side after the opening matches, but more to the point, not enough was made of Alphonso Davies's second-minute goal that gave the Canadians a 1–0 lead. The problem was, nothing at all was made of it by the Croats, who interrogator-slapped the Canadians for the final 101 minutes (never forget all that free stoppage time). If you need more exhaustive detail, it's easy enough to find. The point here is that Canada was lucky to escape with only the four goals it allowed, and in any event isn't ready yet to punch up, let alone talk smack while doing it.

Indeed, what it did accomplish was a Thursday game against the genuine upstart Moroccans that will impact who escapes Group F—whether it's the sprightly Morocco, the allegedly past-it Croats (pre-tournament analysis), or the definitely past-it Belgians (postgame Kevin De Bruyne analysis). A Moroccan win advances them past one of their alleged superiors and will get someone fired in doing so. A Canadian win salvages a bit of dented pride, but pride does not convince the butcher to give up any meat. Pride is for suckers.

This brings us, albeit briefly, to the U.S. and Tuesday's match with Iran. Only a victory can advance the Americans to the knockout stage and a disappointing date with the Netherlands; draw or lose, and they will be just as Canada as the Canadians are now. Only there is no value in seeking pride here. The U.S. convinced its army of supporters that the England match was everything, and after a 0–0 draw against an English side that might actually be much less than the sum of its parts, it turns out that the England match meant a lot less. The U.S. is spirited and stout in the midfield, but lacks scorers and scoring, so beating Iran will be profoundly difficult, and deeply miserable for them and their more jingoistic fans if they fail. The Canadians pretended not to feel pressure until the Croats stuck their heads in a wine press; the Americans have nothing but pressure, and can't even play the spirited underdog. They have to advance on their own chimerical merit, which is a different tracheotomy entirely.

And the Croatians? They got to teach the Canadians a lesson about the cost of unmerited hubris, and as those of you who disavow the Toronto Maple Leafs full know, Canadians don't hubris well at all.

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