AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Despite Team Canada’s vigorous efforts in their first World Cup match since 1986, Belgium won Wednesday’s first Group F match 1-0 thanks to three strong saves from Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and at least one conceded ball. Penalty that should have gone in favor of Canada.

Canada had an early opportunity to take the lead after a penalty was awarded 10 minutes later, but Alphonso Davies’ shot was blocked by Courtois. Canada has yet to score a single World Cup goal. Shortly before the end of the first half, the Belgian Michy Batshuayi scored a long goal.

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Here is Sportzshala’s Julien Lawrence with a reaction and analysis from Qatar.

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JUMP ON: Player Ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and Notable Moments | Post match quotes | Key statistics | Upcoming matches


Fast reaction

one. Cruel but proud night for Canada

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Football can be brutal at times – and the Canadians, in their first World Cup match since 1986, certainly experienced it firsthand.

Unlike other teams in this tournament, they did not show any nerves from the first whistle. They played attacking football with movement, intensity and passion, propelled by the noise and support of 10,000 Canadians at the Hamad bin Ali Stadium. Their manager John Herdman’s game plan was spot on: Kevin De Bruyne or Eden Hazard couldn’t keep up with the ball, they pressed high and made good use of the width of the field.

Steven Eustaquio (what a player) and veteran Atiba Hutchinson – 39, the oldest player in this World Cup and the only surviving member of Canada’s last World Cup appearance in 1986 – ran the midfield. They created chances and scored 2.35 expected goals, or xG, for Canada versus just 0.58 xG for their opponent.

Canada has been the best team for most of the game and can be proud of themselves, but they will regret it. One defensive error on a long pass by Toby Alderweireld and they conceded shortly before halftime. As Nelson Mandela said, “You never lose. You either win or you learn.”

This Canadian team had a lot to learn from the game against Belgium.

2. Courtois, king of the pen and savior of Belgium

Without him, Real Madrid would not have won the Champions League last season and Belgium would not have won the start of this World Cup.

Courtois once again achieved success for his country, as he had many times in the past, saving Davies’ penalty in the 11th minute, confirming that he was the king of penalties. In 2022, he saved five of the nine he faced, an impressive 55.55% of penalties converted and by far the highest in Europe. Since joining Real Madrid in 2018, he has faced 22 penalties and saved penalties six times, but four of those six were in 2022.

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Courtois made another save later in the match when Alistair Johnston shot from a tight angle, and a handy save in the second half from a Syle Larin header that was one of Canada’s best moments of the night.

In a very poor game by Belgium, Courtois was the only source of light. The rest was so bad – the third team of the last World Cup did not pose a threat on the offensive, fought on the defensive, missed chances and dangerous situations.

It was very unconvincing and forced from Belgium, but when you have the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, it makes your life a lot easier.

3. Day off for Hazard and De Bruyne

We wanted Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne on the field for different reasons.

For de Bruyne, the challenge was to be the conduit for this Belgian side, take control of the game and be a creative force. Instead, he got almost everything wrong. He forgot about the free Yuri Tielemans twice in the first half. Just after the hour mark, he wasted a great counter-attack by throwing the ball away to Batshuayi and then hitting from a good position over the bar.

It was a performance quite unlike the KDB we met at Manchester City, perhaps in large part because the supporting cast around him is not of the same caliber as those at his club, but still: we expect more from him. . His role is to carry this command.

Hazard’s goal was to show that even without game training, he can still influence a game like this. Alas, despite a couple of successful touches and turns, the captain’s display was not good enough.

He came out after 60 minutes without creating chances, with only 76% passing accuracy and only two successful dribbles. Although he was fouled four times, which showed that there is still life in him, but now it is not enough.

Manager Roberto Martinez has been very dedicated to the 31-year-old who rarely plays at Real Madrid, keeping him in the team at all costs. It’s unlikely he’ll drop him against Morocco on Sunday, but Hazard, like de Bruyne, will be forced to perform better than against Canada.


Player Ratings

Belgium: Courtois 8, Dendoncker 5, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 4, Castagne 5, Tielemans 3, Witsel 4, Carrasco 4, De Bruyne 4, Hazard 4, Batshuayi 6

Subscriptions: Onana 5, Openda 4, Meunier 4, Trossard 4

Canada: Borjan 5, Johnston 6, Vitoria 5, Miller 6, Hoylett 6, Larin 5, Hutchinson 7, Eustaquio 7, Lariea 6, Buchanan 6, Millar 5, Davis 6, David 5

Subscriptions: Osorio 5, Kone 5, Adekugbe 5


Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Steven Eustaquio, Canada

The Porto midfielder was in charge of this game until he was substituted in the 81st minute. Eustaquio, 25, has been everywhere, returning the ball nine times and creating two chances for his team, playing with intensity, intelligence and flair. It was his breakout season in Portugal and he showed once again how talented he is against Belgium.

WORST: Youri Tielemans, Belgium

It was a tough night for the Leicester midfielder, so much so that his manager decided to sack him at half-time to replace Amada Onana. Tielemans simply didn’t affect the game, being too high, making just 13 passes in 45 minutes, hardly attacking. It was a really disappointing performance.


Highlights and Notable Moments

Canada came out at the first whistle with intensity and pace and they immediately put pressure on Belgium. It looked like Canada would soon take the lead when a handball was called in the 10th minute.

Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich’s full-back and Canada’s leading international, approached the target, but Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois continued his recent string of good penalty shots and he denied Davis.

Canada dominated the first half and were by far the more dangerous side, even aside from missing a chance from a penalty kick. In the 43rd minute, Canada’s expected goals (xG) were 1.81 while Belgium’s was just 0.15.

But football or football – whatever you want to call it – is a fun game: a team can be the “worst” side, but still be the winning side. In the 44th minute, Michy Batshuayi gave Belgium a 1-0 lead with a 44th overhead kick.


After the match: what the managers said

Team Canada coach John Herdman on the result: “Proud of the performance, but you need to score three points in the first game. Tonight we had the opportunity to become the leader of the group – it was a mission – and we missed it. But I’m proud of the performance.” As I said, these guys made a difference and showed that they can live on this stage. I think they made the fans proud of them and it made them feel like they belonged here and that was important to us.”

Herdman on what he said to his players after the match: “I just showed them the statistics. I showed them that they should be here. I told them they should be here and we are going to go and ‘F’ Croatia. It’s as simple as it gets. Now this is our next mission.” (Editor’s note: Canada is in Group F at the World Cup.)

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez on victory: “Canada deserved to be better than us in the way they played. I think the result reflects what we had to do and how we defended each other and took our chance. This is a win and we need to play better and grow. We’ve been here for five days, we have to grow with these games. A lot of top teams are losing games.”


Basic statistics (provided by Sportzshala Stats & Information)

  • Canada is the first team since 1978 to complete 20+ shots (22) and penalties and not score in a World Cup game.

  • Canada’s 2.59 expected goals (xG) against Belgium is the highest expected goals in this tournament.

  • Canada became the first team to score at least 14 shots in the first half without scoring a goal. as well as concedes at half-time in a World Cup match since 1986.

  • The average age of Belgians in the starting 11 against Canada was 30 years and 181 days. This is the oldest starting lineup of 11 in the 2022 World Cup game and the oldest for Belgium since 20 June 1998 against Mexico.


Next

Belgium: Group F will resume on Sunday 27 November with Belgium taking on Morocco at 8am ET. Belgium will then play Croatia on Thursday, December 1 at 10:00 am ET.

Canada: Group F will resume on Sunday, November 27, with Canada playing Croatia at 11:00 am ET. Canada will then face Morocco on Thursday, December 1 at 10:00 am ET.