Croatia’s Luka Modric, left, passes the ball against Canada’s Ismael Kone during their World Cup match Sunday in Doha, Qatar. Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — A bit of trash talk meant to inspire Canada instead motivated Croatia.

Canada Coach John Herdman tried to boost his team following a loss to Belgium to open the team’s first World Cup appearance in 36 years – using colorful language that Croatia took exception to.

The 2018 runner-up responded on Sunday with a 4-1 victory over the Canadians, who were eliminated after two matches in Qatar.

“I have to say thank you to the head coach of Canada for the motivation,” said Andrej Kramaric, who scored two goals on Sunday.

Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever men’s World Cup goal a minute into the match, but Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer also scored for Croatia, which lost to France in the final four years ago in Russia and opened with a scoreless draw against Morocco.

Luka Modric, the 37-year-old captain who runs the midfield for Croatia, is still looking for his first goal of the tournament in what is likely his final World Cup.


Canada opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Belgium. Afterward, Herdman stirred a bit of controversy when he recounted his postgame message to his players, using the first letter of a profanity to describe how they would beat their next opponents.

Croatia Coach Zlatko Dalic responded the day before the match, and he was still salty about it on Sunday. He took a dig at Herdman, a 47-year old Englishman who coached Canada’s team at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, after the match.

“He is a high quality professional, but it will take time for him to learn some things,” Dalic said.

Croatia and Morocco, which caused another upset at this year’s tournament by beating Belgium 2-0 earlier Sunday, both have four points in Group F. Belgium has three points and still has a chance to advance.

“Croatia once again demonstrated power, strength and quality, and no one was happier about that than me,” Dalic said.

Canada earned no points from its first two matches and can’t advance even if it beats Morocco on Thursday in its final match. Croatia and Belgium will play at the same time.


MOROCCO 2, BELGIUM 0: Morocco pulled off yet another World Cup shock, and Belgium’s aging “Golden Generation” took the hit this time.

Morocco’s upset in Doha, Qatar, left Kevin de Bruyne and the 2018 semifinalists in peril of a group-stage exit at what is likely the final World Cup for a highly-talented Belgian group that hasn’t managed to convert its promise into prizes.

It might now be too late.

De Bruyne didn’t drive Belgium forward against Morocco, captain Eden Hazard was taken off after an hour, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was probably at fault for the opening goal.

“We haven’t seen the best Belgium yet,” said Roberto Martinez, a Spaniard who has coached the team for six years. “We haven’t been ourselves.”

Belgium could have become the second team behind defending champion France to advance to the last 16 if it beat Morocco. But it dropped from first to third in Group F and now plays against 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia, trying to avoid its earliest elimination since 1998.


Morocco captain Romain Saiss gave his team the lead with a barely noticeable deflection off his hip after a free kick from Abdelhamid Sabiri in the 73rd minute that got under the body of Courtois – for many, the best goalkeeper in the world.

Zakaria Aboukhlal guided a shot into the roof of the net off a pass from Hakim Ziyech in stoppage time to make it 2-0 as Belgium’s defense, boasting more than 300 international appearances but anchored by two players in their mid-30s, was beaten by a speedy 22-year-old forward playing at his first World Cup.

Morocco’s players kneeled and pressed their heads to the ground in prayer, then leapt up in celebration. Pulling himself up from the ground, Courtois just shook his head.

GERMANY 1, SPAIN 1: Germany forward Niclas Füllkrug salvaged a draw against Spain in Al Khor, Qatar.

The Germans, though, still need to win their last group match to have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage. The four-time champions were eliminated in the group stage four years ago in Russia.

Germany will next face Costa Rica, which defeated Japan 1-0 earlier Sunday. Even a win may not be enough for the Germans, who are in last place in Group E and need other result to go their way.


Spain can reach the last 16 with a draw against Japan.

Álvaro Morata put Spain ahead in the 62nd minute and Füllkrug equalized for Germany in the 83rd.

The match between pre-tournament favorites was one of the most anticipated in the group stage.

Spain tried to control the pace of the game with ball possession but wasn’t able to create many opportunities, while Germany was able to threaten sporadically with breakaways and set pieces.

COSTA RICA 1, JAPAN 0: Keysher Fuller scored in the 81st minute to lift Costa Rica to a victory over Japan in Al Rayyan, Qatar, leaving both teams with three points after two games in Group E.

Fuller took advantage of a defensive error when Japan failed to clear the ball, and hit the net from 18 meters just off the fingertips of leaping Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.

The match at Ahmad Bin Ali stadium was tactical and largely lackluster, particularly in a first half that did not yield a single shot on goal. The second half was slightly better, with Japan pressing throughout until Costa Rica broke through.

Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas came up with several rapid fire saves in the final minutes to ensure the victory.

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