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After coming agonisingly close to that historic moment on Wednesday night, will Canada’s wait for a first-ever World Cup goal come to an end this time?
The Canucks are making just their second appearance at the finals, losing all three matches without scoring way back at Mexico ‘86.
John Herdman’s team took on Belgium in Al Rayyan on matchday one and, despite dominating throughout, were cruelly beaten 1-0.
Canada’s xG figure stood at 2.83, to Belgium 0.86, with les Rouges paying the price for numerous missed chances.
Alphonso Davies saw a tame early penalty saved, while Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and others all squandered gilt-edged opportunities.
Post-game, Herdman’s message to his players was that they’ve proved they can compete at this level, now needing to replicate that performance here.
In stark contrast, Croatia have qualified for six of seven World Cups since independence, reaching the semi-finals on debut at France ‘98, before going one better last time round.
However, Zlatko Dalić's team may be a declining force, held to an uneventful goalless draw by Morocco on Wednesday.
Of course, they still boast a magnificent midfield, but really lacked that crucial cutting-edge in the final third.
So, will Canada claim an historic first World Cup win, or will Croatia prove to be a cut above at Khalifa International Stadium?
Croatia team news
Zlatko Dalić is expected to name an unchanged XI from Wednesday afternoon’s draw.
Since 2018, Joško Gvardiol has become their best centre-back, with Dejan Lovren holding onto his place, while Domagoj Vida is now a substitute.
Few teams at this tournament can boast a better midfield trio than Marcelo Brozović, Mateo Kovačić and Luka Modrić who, between them, have 319 caps to their name.
On Wednesday, Modrić became the first man in history to feature at both a World Cup and European Championships in three different decades.
Ivan Perišić, who’s scored at each of the last five Euros or World Cups, will be seeking to extend that streak.
The Tottenham man will continue to be Croatia’s primary goal threat, given centre-forward Andrej Kramarić's lack of potency.
Predicted XI (4-3-3): Livaković; Juranović, Gvardiol, Lovren, Sosa; Brozović, Kovačić, Modrić; Vlašić, Perišić, Kramarić.
Canada team news
John Herdman surprisingly left Cyle Larin on the bench against Belgium, despite the Club Brugge striker’s 13 goals during qualifying.
It’ll be interesting to see if Canada reconfigure their attack, with Alphonso Davies not at his most threatening from left-wing-back.
Stephen Eustáquio and Atiba Hutchinson will continue as the midfield duo; the latter, now 39, made his international debut in January 2003.
Along-with the aforementioned Davies, Jonathan David is les Rouges’ main threat, having scored 22 times in just 36 caps.
Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Borjan; Johnston, Miller, Vitória; Lareya, Hutchinson, Eustáquio, Davies; Hoilett, David, Larin.
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