AHMED BIN ALI, Qatar – In a gripping Group F match, Belgium escapes a major shock while Canada fails to make pressure count.
With the help of Michy Batshuayi’s goal in the 44th minute, Belgium overcame Canada in an intense Group F match to win 1 to 0.
The second-best team in the world, Europe, struggled to keep up with Canada’s ferocity on Wednesday night at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, but they will be grateful to have avoided a huge shock by coming out on top.
Alphonso Davies, a top player for Canada, missed a penalty after just 11 seconds, one of many squandered opportunities that the team will regret.
The 22-year-attempt to score, which would have been Canada’s first-ever World Cup goal, was stopped by Thibaut Courtois. Canada lost all three games in its only earlier World Cup appearance in Mexico in 1986, and they failed to score in any of them.
Unfazed by the early setback, the Canadian attack kept up the pressure for the remaining 45 minutes, their speed upending the Belgian defense and taxing Courtois.
However, against the flow of play, just before halftime, Batshuayi split two defenders, raced on to a long pass, and put a shot past Milan Borjan.
Romelu Lukaku, the team’s first-choice striker, was only on the field due to an injury that could prevent him from participating in the group stage.
The ‘golden generation’ of Belgium struggles to stay up
Both teams had scoring opportunities in the second half, which was more even.
But overall, Canada had 21 shots on goal compared to Belgium’s nine, and despite having a well-known, talented team, they were far from convincing.
Four of the starting lineup’s six players in their 30s had made more than 100 appearances for other countries.
In what increasingly appears to be the final tournament for this set of players, who have frequently been referred to as a “golden age” of Belgian footballers, Courtois and crucial midfielder Kevin De Bruyne might both score three goals.
However, Roberto Martinez, the team’s coach, praised the victory as a crucial base upon which Belgium could build its tournament campaign despite acknowledging that his team had been second-best overall.
In fact, a quick and aggressive Canadian squad made all the finest plays in front of their raucous, maple leaf-waving supporters. They took 14 shots in the first half alone, which is a World Cup record for a team that failed to score in 16 years.
Atiba Hutchinson, the team’s captain, made history by starting a World Cup game at the age of 39. Davies distinguished himself with his driving runs from left back.
But because they were unable to take advantage of the numerous opportunities they created, they are now at the bottom of Group F, supporting Belgium in first place as well as Morocco and Croatia, who each have one point.
On Sunday, Canada will play their upcoming match against Croatia, while Belgium will play Morocco. The team led by Martinez would advance to the elimination round with a victory.