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World Cup 2022: Canada puts up strong fight but falls to Belgium

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The World Cup in Canada began with a heavy defeat against Belgium.  (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)
Canada’s World Cup kicked off with a heavy loss to Belgium. (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

After a 36-year hiatus from the World Cup, Canada lost 1–0 to Belgium in the first leg.

Belgium, ranked second in the world, was pinned against the wall for much of the first half. Michy Batshuayi scored the first goal of the game in the 44th minute, taking an accurate long-range pass from Toby Alderweireld and sending it past Canadian Milan Borjan.

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Canada earned a penalty after Belgian Yannick Carrasco was found to have grabbed the ball with his hand in the penalty area while going into VAR. However, Belgian Thibaut Courtois robbed Alphonso Davies after a penalty in the 10th minute, leaving the game scoreless.

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Here are three takeaways from Canada’s loss in the first leg.

Terrible finish of Canada is the main reason for the defeat

It was an agonizing loss and how you feel about it may depend on your perception of the Canadian side entering the competition. If you felt it was enough just to show that it belonged, Canada did it, proving that they were the best side for large stretches of the competition. But if this version of Canada was thought to be the same age as Belgium, history be damned, then you might be much more critical of the loss itself. And by taking the second approach, fueled by his incredible performance in the CONCACAF qualifying draw, it’s easy to point out that the wasteful completions of Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan were the main reason Canada is at the bottom of Group F after one game.

From the start, Canada took an aggressive approach, using their modified 4-4-2 format to push Belgium out with superior speed and crosses from the flanks. Buchanan pressed early and his aggressiveness almost paid dividends for Canada as Belgian Yannick Carrasco blocked his chance with a handball in the eighth minute, leading to a penalty we’ll talk about in more detail. Things started well enough for Canada, with David playing like crazy in particular, trying to do anything and everything to get a quality shot at the draw. Throughout the game, poor runs by Richie Larieux and Alistair Johnston helped Canada create a slew of scoring chances. But the David-Buchanan pair kept dropping the last ball, and in the end, Canada’s 22-9 lead on shots looks purely academic.

Laria hit the ball just before the end of the first half, where Buchanan just needed to finish it off. He was delivered on a plate, the least he could do was force Courtois, who was playing like the best goalkeeper in the world on tests, to make a quality save. Instead, Buchanan skied and Belgium took a 1–0 lead at half-time, where they were heavily beaten everywhere except on the scoreboard.

And the final troubles continued in the second half. Immediately after play resumed, Steven Eustaquio took a swing at Kevin De Bruyne, a world-class Belgian midfielder who was mostly kept under control, and then passed the perfect ball to David. Once again, David landed a dull blow.

Chances began to dry up towards the end of the game, despite constant runs from full-backs, as well as solid midfield work from Davis, Eustaquio and Junior Hoylett. But you can’t help but wonder what could have been. Sail Larin received a quality pass from Sam Adekugbe – both players performed well from the bench – but Larin ferried the ball harmlessly into the stands.

Canada’s head coach John Herdman said after the game that his team needs to keep their heads up and we’re not necessarily against it. But if Canada entered the tournament dissatisfied with the idea of ​​just being there, then it may be distressing to see the dismal conclusion of its attacking duo.

The debate about punishing Alphonso Davies is revisionist and overblown.

Davis or David? The debate is likely to continue for several more days after Courtois robbed the Bayern Munich star in the 10th minute. The speculation about Davis’s punishment seems exaggerated and revisionist, even if David is usually assigned to act from the spot.

If Davis has scored, we’re all writing different essays about how the 22-year-old is leading the next wave of Canadian stars into an unprecedented future for the program. Davis is already one of the best players in the world, and if he scores, legions of columns will be written across the country about his role in propelling Canada to its newfound powerhouse status. Pretending that this is not the case seems somewhat disingenuous.

Maybe Davis shouldn’t have done this, but let’s be honest: When he walked up to take the picture for Canada, no one was yelling into their TVs asking what Herdman was thinking. This decision only looks bad in retrospect, and can be mitigated by remembering that it wasn’t some online bullshit – Courtois can steal games solo, and while that’s not exactly what happened here, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. . was stopped by the owner of the Yashin Trophy.

Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston and Richie Laria have been prominent players in Canada.

Okay, we’ve done enough critiques for one game. Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston and Richie Larya were standout Canadian players and deserve further recognition for their impressive performance against Belgium.

We have already discussed the contribution of Johnston and Lariya to the attack, so in this section we will start with Miller. Miller was ready to fight from the first minute and was largely responsible for putting down the Belgian attackers in the last third. In the 22nd minute, Miller robbed Batshuayi of a powerful scoring chance, getting into the middle of a modified 2-on-1 scenario, and then correctly approached the Belgian striker, parrying his shot attempt to safety. Miller was officially named Team Canada’s Man of the Match and while Larriea could have gotten him, we don’t mind that choice. He won’t be in MLS for long.

Johnston was a constant link between Canada’s defense and attack, making long runs and constantly finding ways to make dangerous crosses into the box. Although Belgian Eden Hazard got the better of him on several occasions, Johnston always came back hungrily and kept moving throughout the competition. His dizzying balls into the box are sure to give a headache to Croatia and Morocco.

Larya was a threat on both sides and did not allow Belgium to extend their lead in the 66th minute. De Bruyne raced past Miller, who fell to the ground in the clear hope that the referee would stop play due to injury, creating a dangerous force majeure. De Bruyne sent the ball behind Batshuayi in the penalty area, probably counting on a double. At the last moment, Laria skillfully timed the tackle and sent the ball to safety.

Not a bad debut of the Canadian defensive trio in the World Cup.

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