Rival Watch: Croatian tabloid mocks Canada’s John Herdman after his comments

Kevin Michie & James Sharman discuss John Herdman’s comments ahead of Canada’s match against Croatia, the reaction from Croatian media and how Alistair Johnston’s move to Celtic is the first of many Canadians heading to bigger clubs in Europe.

Welcome to the World Cup, Canada.

The Canadians were given the rose for qualifying and putting in a great performance against Belgium in their 2022 World Cup debut, now they get the thorns that come with it.

Croatia, Canada’s next opponent in Group F, had a bone to pick with Canadian national team coach John Herdman’s comments that came moments after its 1-0 loss.

“I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia,” Herdman said with a smile in FIFA’s official postgame pitchside interview. “That’s as simple as it gets.”

Croatian tabloid 24 Sata got imaginative in its response to Herdman’s comments. The paper placed the Canadian coach on the front page, with maple leaves covering his mouth and his nether region.

A translation of the headline read: “You have the mouth (words). But do you have the balls as well?”

The newspaper continued by writing in a separate piece that Herdman “crossed the line of good taste.”

Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic was little more nuanced, saying through an interpreter: “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.”

When asked about his comment on Thursday, Herdman said “we’re here to be fearless.”

“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,” Herdman added. “And it’s the mindset that we took to Belgium. We have to. It’s part of ‘New Canada,’”

Despite the fiery comments, Canada’s performance did attract the praise from other coaches at the World Cup. In a press conference on Friday, Mexico manager and former Barcelona boss Tata Martino said the Canadians showed “the best football after the first slate of games” in their opening match.

Canada will take on Luka Modric and Croatia Sunday at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT. Canada is last in Group F after losing its first match, while Croatia sits on one point following its draw with Morocco.

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