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Herdman: 'Eff Croatia' meant to set Canada’s World Cup mindset, not disrespect

John Herdman John Herdman - The Canadian Press

Canada head coach John Herdman said Thursday that comments made after his team’s men’s FIFA World Cup opener were not intended to be disrespectful toward Croatia and represent Canada’s “new” mindset on the world stage.

Following the 1-0 loss to Belgium Wednesday in Qatar – the country’s first World Cup game in 36 years – Herdman said he told his team they belong and the next step was to go and “eff Croatia” in their second group stage match Sunday afternoon.

TSN’s Matthew Scianitti reports Croatian media asked Herdman Thursday if the comment was a slight to the 2018 World Cup runners up.

“I mean, you say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle. And when you’re asked a question ‘What did you say that huddle?’ It’s what I said,” Herdman replied.

“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where we’re at on the world stage, but in that moment you enter that next place you take your team to that next place that we’re here to be fearless and to bring everything we’ve got to that game.”

ContentId(1.1883339): Herdman explains Croatia comment: 'You say those things in an impassioned moment'

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Herdman added that while Canada is heading into the match with their chests out, he did not mean to offend anyone.

“I mean no disrespect to the Croatian team and Croatian people, but at the end of the day it’s a mindset that Canada is going to have if we’re going to have 3 points against one of the top teams in the world. And it’s the mindset we took to Belgium. We have to; it’s part of ‘New Canada.’”

Despite Wednesday’s loss, Canada tallied 22 shots compared to Belgium’s nine and by many accounts looked like the more dangerous side for much of the match. Michy Batshuayi scored in the 44th minute to lead the Red Devils to a narrow victory.

Belgium entered the tournament as the No. 2-ranked men’s team in the world. Head coach Roberto Martinez said he was “delighted” his team was able to scratch out a win while not playing up to their potential.

"[Canada] showed tonight that they do belong here," Herdman said Wednesday.

"We came into that game with a couple of goals: to play fearless and to entertain. We had some other goals, which was to create some firsts but we never quite got to those moments.”

Earlier Wednesday in Group F play, Morocco played Croatia to a 0-0 draw, keeping 2018 Golden Ball winner Luka Modric at bay.