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View From The Dolan: Junior Hoilett World Cup Special (Croatia)

More game time for Hoilett at the World Cup, this time off the bench.

Croatia v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Typically, I settled down early for this game to gather the team news, appreciate our Sweet Canadian Prince and fully get behind (well, not fully, but you know what I mean) the Maple Leafs. After the savagery of Friday morning, I wasn't ready for any more disappointment in the shape of young Junior not starting - which, of course, happened.

Coach John Herdman had made the decision to bench our utility man which, had this been in Berkshire and news had been shared with the Dolan, I'd have had to think of the vociferous consequences (tutting, head shaking, maybe some loud huffs). Luckily for the County Durham native, he was miles and miles away from any sort of abuse from the Reading faithful, which was just as well really.

Putting Uncle Dave in the sub sack was a disgusting decision and, as I settled in to watch the game anyway, (the column ain't going to write itself) I wondered how the team would fare. Of course, the answer to that was... well, answered, within two minutes as Alphonso Davies converted a head shot to put the Canucks 1-0 up. It really was a decent goal, with a delicious crossed whipped in from the right and Davies, who actually plays left back for Bayern Munich (Canada love players out of position, don't they?) converting with aplomb.

That proved to be the only real bright spot for Canada as Croatia got themselves together in impressively quick time. Midway through the first half I travelled upstairs to put something away. As I turned the corner of the landing, a move I've used hundreds of times, I clipped my left foot on the edge of the banister, sending daggers of pain through my very small toe and into my feet. I fell and held myself tight (a bit like that scene in 'Family Guy' when Peter Griffin holds his knee for ages). I'm sure there will be arguments, maybe I've just been lucky, but bashing a toe on painted wood is the most pain a man can face. Horrid.

I arrived, eventually, back downstairs to see the score at 1-1. Things took an even darker turn when Livaja doubled the lead for the Croatians to send them into the water break 2-1 up. In truth, it probably should have been more as they were in complete control of the game at this point. Canada had no answer to the technical savagery of Modric's chaps.

Croatia v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

At half time I went to find the Doritos I'd started in the week. To my horror, I remembered I'd eaten them all. Pooh sticks. I left the snack cupboard behind and trudged back into the living room. The misery wasn't over however as a power cut battered the entire house, leaving me bereft of the half-time analysis. Upon the commencement of the second half, I was fully expecting Junior to appear on the green turf. When he didn't, I flipped my negative feelings towards Herdman into a positive. "He's saving him," I whispered to myself. Clever coaching, that. Save your second-best player on the roster for when things get proper tough.

Cue 62 minutes and our Canadian Hero was prepped and ready to go. A baptism of fire greeted him as he struggled to get into the game and, on 70 minutes, Croatia converted again. Was Hoillett at fault? Not for me to say as it would be blasphemous, but ultimately the goal sealed the win. He tried a speculative shot in the dying embers of the match which led to nothing and the game was wrapped up in injury time with another well-worked goal from the Croatians.

The harsh reality of the World Cup was laid bare for all to see as Canada became only the second team to mathematically exit the biggest stage of all. Scoring a goal is small consolation, their first at the tournament, but with Morrocco in a good position to qualify, you could be forgiven for fearing the worst for Hoilett and company. Brave, committed, entertaining in spells, but ultimately on their way home regardless of the outcome on Thursday against the Atlas Lions.

See you Thursday.