Canada almost surgically joined the United States at this World Cup as a plucky young upstart ready to make a dent in some of the enduring preconceptions about who’s who and what’s what in the international game, but in a tournament that has been kind to upstarts, it turned out that Canadians were not that at all.
If that makes you wonder if the Americans will hide Tuesday for the tougher-than-you-think Iranians, well, the two aren’t really connected except by geography, language, and pretty much everything else, including CONCACAF (gesundheit ). . But if that relationship also involves the World Cup, the US is screwed.
The Canadians were soundly beaten and the 4-1 final was kind to the United States hat. Too much was made of Canadian coach John Herdman’s apparent displeasure with the Croatian team after the first few games, but more to the point, not enough was made of Alphonso Davies’ second-minute goal that gave the Canadians a 1-1 lead. -0. The problem was that the Croats didn’t do anything about it, slapping the Canadians around for the final 101 minutes (never forget all that injury time). If you need more in-depth details, it’s pretty easy to find. The point here is that Canada was lucky to get away with just the four goals they allowed, and in any case, they are not yet ready to strike, let alone talk bad while doing so.
In fact, what he did achieve was a Thursday game against genuine Moroccan newcomers that will affect who escapes Group F, whether it be the lively Morocco, the supposedly past Croatians (pre-tournament analysis) or the definitely Belgian pasts (post-game analysis by Kevin De Bruyne). A Moroccan victory moves them past one of their supposed superiors and will get someone fired for doing so. A Canadian victory salves dented pride somewhat, but pride doesn’t convince the butcher to give up meat. Pride is for fools.
This brings us, if only briefly, to the United States and Tuesday’s game against Iran. Only a win can advance the Americans to the knockout stage and a disappointing date with the Netherlands; draw or lose, and they will be as Canadian as Canadians are now. It’s just that there’s no point in looking for pride here. The USA convinced their army of supporters that the England game was everything, and after a 0-0 draw against an English team that might actually be much less than the sum of its parts, it turns out that the game of England meant much less. The USA is energetic and strong in midfield, but lacks goalscorers and scorers, so beating Iran will be deeply difficult and deeply miserable for them and their most jingoistic fans if they fail. The Canadians pretended not to feel pressure until the Croats put their heads in a winepress; the Americans have nothing but pressure, and they can’t even play the energetic underdog. They have to advance on their own chimerical merit, which is a completely different tracheotomy.
And the Croats? They taught Canadians a lesson about the cost of undeserved arrogance, and as those of you who disown the Toronto Maple Leafs know, Canadians don’t have arrogance at all.