“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets,” an emotional John Herdman said in the on-field interview after their 1-0 loss against Belgium.
Herdman’s word has eked the Croatian fans. In response to his comments, the Croatian tabloid 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a full-page photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the balls as well?”
Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic also gave his views on Herdman’s comments, as he said: “I’m not sure how nice it is to say something like that but it’s his right. “I think we need to show on the pitch that we’re better.”
One of the Croatian journalist on Thursday asked Herdman: “Did you really say after last night’s match that you were going to F-word Croatia? And if you did, is that underestimating Croatia… as runner-up of (the) last World Cup?”
Herdman didn’t back down from his comments, although he did admit they were said in the heat of the moment.
“Great question,” he said. “And yeah, I did. You say those things in an impassioned moment, trying to inspire your team in a huddle. And when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said.
“It’s not massively respectful to (the) Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place. You’ve taken your team to that next place — that we’re here to be fearless and to bring everything we’ve got to that game.
“I mean no disrespect to the Croatian team and Croatian people, but at the end of the day it’s a mindset that Canada’s going to have if we’re going to have three points against one of the top teams in the world. And it’s the mindset that we took to Belgium. We have to. It’s part of ‘New Canada’,” he added.
Canada will face Croatia on Sunday. Canada could be eliminated with another defeat. Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco.
Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass on a counter. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.