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Coffee with the Caps, Monday November 28

Croatia v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Good Monday morning Caps fans. Hope you all are firing up the coffee maker and getting prepared (mentally and otherwise) for the week ahead.

For the 99% of you reading this who are Canadian, it was a difficult weekend. I espoused some attempt at optimism on Friday but, outside of a 20 minute window, the Canada Men’s National Team largely did not reflect that in their 4-1 loss to Croatia Sunday.

The defeat eliminates them from progressing to the knockout phase of the competition and while the Canadians looked the better team against Belgium, they fell far short of that level against Croatia.

John Herdman’s loyalty to some older players, notably Altiba Hutchinson (one of the oldest players in the competition), left the Croatians with space in the midfield to dominate. This is a dangerous prospect against any team, particularly one with Luka Modric in the lineup. The tactics were generally off-base and left the result in little doubt once Croatia clawed back from Alphonso Davies’ 2nd minute opener.

If there is any solace to be taken, it is that CONCACAF has had a highly uneven World Cup. The U.S. outplayed England but could only manage a 1-1 draw Friday, leaving them in the unenviable position of having to beat Iran to qualify for the knockout round (not unlikely, but also a tall task against a stout and emotionally charged side). Mexico is even less likely to progress and Costa Rica rebounded from their 7-0 defeat to Spain with a win over Japan but still are in a crowd of teams trying to fight out of a chaotic Group E.

In some respects, Canada has always been in a similar boat to the U.S. team: trying to build momentum ahead of a 2026 World Cup where they will obviously be a host, trotting out a team that will be in its prime. Credit to them for playing their game, trying to beat Croatia in a wide-open affair, rather setting up more conservatively.

Still, you don’t get a trophy for finishing first in World Cup qualifying. And the dose of experience in the rough-and-tumble pressure cooker that is this tournament will ultimately serve the Canadians well (perhaps steering clear of saying eff your next opponent). And next time, as hosts, they will be in a more favorable pot and thus earn a more manageable group.

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