Canada had been almost surgically tied to the United States at this World Cup, as a plucky young upstart willing to debunk some of the lingering prejudices about who is who and what is what in the international game, but in a tournament that was friendly were upstarts, it turns out the Canadians weren’t.
So if you’re wondering if the Americans went underground on Tuesday from the tougher-than-you-think Iranians, well the two aren’t actually connected except by geography, language and just about everything else, including CONCACAF (health) . . But if that relationship also affects the World Cup, the US will be hosed.
The Canadians were routed deep, and the 4-1 final was kind to America’s hat. Too much has been made of Canada coach John Herdman’s apparent diss about the Croatian team after the opening games, but to get to the point, not enough has been made of Alphonso Davies’ second-minute goal that gave the Canadians a 1: 0 lead. Trouble was, the Croatians, who misheard the Canadians in the final 101 minutes (never forget all that free stoppage time), didn’t make anything of it at all. If you need more in-depth details, they are easy to find. The point here is that Canada was lucky enough to walk away with just the four goals allowed and certainly aren’t ready to strike just yet, let alone talk while he’s doing it.
What actually did pull it off was a Thursday game against the real Moroccans that will have an impact on who escapes Group F – whether it’s sprightly Morocco, the Croatians who were said to have survived (pre-tournament analysis) or the Belgians who definitely survived (analysis by Kevin De Bruyne after the game). A Moroccan victory gets them past one of their supposed superiors and will fire someone for it. A Canadian win saves a bit of battered pride, but pride doesn’t convince the butcher to forgo meat. Pride is for suckers.
This brings us, albeit briefly, to the US and Tuesday’s game against Iran. Only a win can put the Americans through to the knockouts and a disappointing date against the Netherlands; Draw or lose and they will be just as Canada as Canadians are now. Only it’s worthless to seek pride here. The USA convinced their army of supporters that the England game was everything, and after a 0-0 draw against an England side that might have been a lot less than the sum of their parts, the England game turned out to be a lot meant less. The USA are spirited and strong in midfield, but they lack goalscorers and goals so it will be extremely difficult to beat Iran and deeply unhappy for them and their more jingoistic fans if they fail. The Canadians pretended not to feel any pressure until the Croats stuck their heads in a wine press; The Americans have nothing but pressure and can’t even play the spirited underdog. They must advance on their own chimeric merit, which is a completely different tracheostomy.
And the Croatians? You have to teach Canadians a lesson about the price of undeserved hubris, and as those of you who dislike the Toronto Maple Leafs know, Canadians have no hubris at all.