Having beaten Canada 4-1 the Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic, and the forward, Andrej Kramaric, made it clear that they were unimpressed by John Herdman’s comments before the game and the fact he walked off without shaking the hand of his opposite number.
After Canada’s first game at the 2022 World Cup, an unfortunate 1-0 defeat against Belgium, an emotional Herdman said of his team in a TV interview: “I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and ‘eff’ Croatia.”
Having scored two goals on Sunday to confirm Canada’s elimination at the group stage, Kramaric referenced Herdman’s now-infamous comment. “I’d like to thank the Canada manager for motivation. In the end, Croatia showed who ‘effed’ who.”
Dalic had repeatedly decried his counterpart’s lack of respect in the run-up to the match on Sunday. It also became a central talking point back in Zagreb, where the country’s 24 Sata tabloid ran a front-page photo of a naked Herdman with Canadian flags over his mouth and groin region and a headline that read: “You have the mouth, but do you have the [balls] as well?”
On Sunday night, after Kramaric’s double and strikes from Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer followed an early opener from Alphonso Davies, Dalic said: “I did not see the other head coach after the match. Whether I lose or win I always congratulate the winner.”
“He [Herdman] was not there and that’s his way of doing things,” Dalic added. “He’s obviously mad. He’s a good coach, he is a high-quality professional, but it will take some time for him to learn some things.”
Already a national hero after guiding Canada’s women’s national team to back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Herdman has elevated his profile even further by lifting the men’s side back into the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
But the 47-year-old manager from Consett in County Durham admitted on Sunday that he may have spoken recklessly. “I could have been a little bit more composed coming out of the huddle, but that’s my learning,” Herdman said.
“I’ll take that on the chin. But from a mindset point of view, I think we showed in that first 25 minutes, that little old Canada can compete with the best in the world.”