Former New Zealand women’s coach John Herdman has kicked off a media storm with an off-the-cuff comment about Canada’s next opponents at the FIFA World Cup.
Herdman (46), the head coach of Canada, has upset Croatian fans and media ahead of Monday’s vital Group F match that will have a major bearing whether either side will progress to the tournament’s knockout stages.
After losing their opening game 1-0 to Belgium, Herdman was asked at FIFA’s official post-game interview what he told his players in their huddle before they left the pitch.
Main photo: Herdman’s message to his players is caught on spider cam.
A smiling Herdman said: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia, That’s as simple as it gets.”
Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic took the comment in his stride, saying: “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.”
Herdman’s flip comment sparked a backlash in Croatia. Tabloid newspaper 24 Sata devoted its entire front page to the story, depicting a naked Herdman with maple leaves covering his mouth and lower regions.
Translated, the headline read: “You have the mouth. But do you have the balls as well?”
In an editorial, the paper said the Canadian coach had “crossed the line of good taste.”
The Canadian paper Toronto Sun jibed back: “Our balls are bigger.”
Herdman: ‘I meant no disrespect’
Asked about the reaction to his comment, Herdman told reporters: “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.”
In an interview with TSN, Herdman said he had been “a little too honest” with his comment, and it had been “a learning moment”.
READ MORE: Our previous World Cup stories >>>>
Herdman: ‘I was a little too honest’
Herdman’s journey from New Zealand to Canada
Before his move to Canada, where he has coached both its men’s and women’s international teams, UK-born Herdman spent a decade in New Zealand in regional and national coaching roles, as well as playing for Lotto NRFL club Hibiscus Coast.
Games to be played on Monday November 28, 2022
Belgium v Morocco
Al Thumama Stadium, Al Thumama, 2am (NZT)
Croatia v Canada
Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, 5am (NZT)