John Herdman coaching against Belgium on Nov. 23, 2022. Nov 23, 2022; Al Rayyan, Qatar; Canada head coach John Herdman during the first half of a group stage match against Belgium during the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Following Canada‘s 1-0 loss to Belgium in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Wednesday, Canadian manager John Herdman was asked in a live on-pitch interview with the BBC what he told the team in a passionate post-match speech. He responded with “I told them we belong here, and we’re going to go and f*** Croatia” (Canada’s next opponent):

On Thursday, when asked about that by Croatian media, Herdman clarified that he doesn’t have anything in particular against Croatia and means “no disrespect to the Croatian team and Croatian people,” but said “At the end of the day, it’s a mindset that Canada’s got to have if we’re going to have three points against one of the top teams in the world.” And that led to quite a cover response from Croatian tabloid 24sata (the highest-circulation newspaper in the country) Friday:

Now that’s a strategic maple reserve. This, unsurprisingly, led to lots of discussion in the Canadian soccer world. Some highlights of that:

Those last couple of comments on Herdman (seen above during the Belgium match) skillfully using this to move the conversation on from that loss feel apt. And the 24sata response here only helps further with that. And the “balls” discussion is particularly funny, as some of Herdman’s comments in the initial remarks to his team that started all this were specifically emphasizing balls:

We’ll see if the Canada-Croatia war of words and images escalates any further ahead of their 11 a.m. ET match Sunday.

[Juraj Vrdoljak on Twitter; photo from Yukihito Taguchi/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.