Back at the finals after 36 years away, Canada thrilled in their opening game against Belgium, only to be narrowly beaten.
It looked to be a similar story again on Sunday, although Croatia were ultimately deserving winners after two goals from Andrej Kramaric and one each from Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer overturned an early Canada lead.
Alphonso Davies' opener was his country's first goal at a World Cup, but still it was a fifth defeat from five on the global stage, ending their hopes of progression as Croatia join Morocco on four points in Group F.
That wait for a breakthrough goal extended only 67 seconds into Canada's fifth finals match, with Davies meeting Tajon Buchanan's cross to head the fastest goal of the tournament so far.
Croatia soon took control, however, and after Milan Borjan twice denied Livaja either side of a disallowed Kramaric goal, two goals ahead of half-time turned the game on its head.
Borjan had no answer to Kramaric, who squeezed in another finish, and Livaja got his goal with a low effort from the edge of the box.
John Herdman's men came out for the second half with renewed optimism and went close through both substitute Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David, but Kramaric continued to threaten and clinically picked out the bottom-left corner to settle it.
There was time for Croatia to add further gloss as poor Kamal Miller miscontrolled on halfway and gave Mislav Orsic a clear run to advance and unselfishly square to Majer.
What does it mean? Canada prove unsuccessful entertainers
Canada's tennis team clinched Davis Cup glory just before kick-off, and their countrymen did not have to wait long to celebrate again. After 50 shots without success across their prior four World Cup games, their 51st found the net through Davies.
But Croatia were themselves more effective in attack than Belgium had been and recovered from that setback to win comfortably, picking holes in the Canada defence with consummate ease.
Kramaric leads comeback
Kramaric showed his class in scoring with two of five attempts, displaying the sort of ruthless touch in front of goal that would have delivered Canada victory against Belgium, if not in this game.
This was the second match at this tournament to see a team concede first but lead before half-time, the other seeing Croatia's 2018 final conquerors France rally past Australia.
Such a swift turnaround did not occur once over the previous five World Cups combined.
Centurion looks his age
It is rare Luka Modric, at 37, is some way short of being the oldest man in a midfield battle, but Atiba Hutchinson, at 39, is the second-oldest outfield player to play at a World Cup.
While Hutchinson also became the first player to appear 100 times for Canada on Sunday, all that experience could not make up for a lack of pace that gave Croatia the run of the midfield.
Key Opta Facts
- Abdelhamid Sabiri's opener was Morocco's first ever free-kick goal at the World Cup. Furthermore, it was the first direct free-kick goal by any nation at this World Cup.
- Belgium have lost seven of their last 19 matches in all competitions (W9 D3), as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 74 games combined (W57 D10).
- Morocco’s victory over Belgium is their first win in five games at the World Cup (D2 L2). Meanwhile, it is the first time that they have recorded consecutive clean sheets at the World Cup since 1986.
- This was the first time that Belgium have been defeated in the group stage in 14 such games at the World Cup (W8 D5), while this loss against Morocco ends an eight-game win streak in the groups.