Canada’s first match in the FIFA World Cup after a 36-year absence ended in a 1-0 loss to Belgium.
The majority of the first half was spent with Belgium, the No. 2 team in the world, up against the wall. Michy Batshuayi scored the game’s first goal in the 44th minute after receiving a superbly placed long pass from Toby Alderweireld and putting it past Milan Borjan of Canada.
Yannick Carrasco of Belgium was found to have handled the ball in the box by VAR, earning Canada a penalty. However, Thibault Courtois of Belgium denied Alphonso Davies on the next penalty in the 10th minute to prevent a goal from being scored.
Here are three lessons learned from Canada’s defeat in the first game.
The loss is primarily due to Canada’s poor performance in the last minutes.
Canada adopted an aggressive stance right away, pressing Belgium with its faster pace and advancing from the wings in a modified 4-4-2 formation. Early pressure from Buchanan nearly paid off for Canada when Yannick Carrasco of Belgium stopped his shot with his arm in the eighth minute, resulting in a penalty that we will go into more detail about. For Canada, things got off to a decent enough start with David playing like a lunatic and doing anything and everything to gain a good opportunity to the net. Richie Laryea and Alistair Johnston’s smashing rushes throughout the game gave Canada many chances to score.
Just before the first half ended, Laryea sent in a wonderful ball that Buchanan only needed to tap in. When tested, Courtois performed like the finest goalie in the world, so the least he could do was put pressure on him to make a strong save. Instead, Buchanan skied it, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead going into halftime despite being significantly outmatched everywhere else.
In addition, the second half saw poorer finishing. Kevin De Bruyne, a top-tier midfielder for Belgium who was generally kept in check, was nutmegged by Stephen Eustaquio shortly after the game resumed, and he then perfectly placed a pass for David. David once more made a lackluster attempt that was wide.
Even though the fullbacks were running forward constantly and Davies, Eustaquio, and Junior Hoilett were doing a good job in the middle of the field, the opportunities started to disappear toward the end of the game. Nevertheless, you cannot but speculate about what may have been. Sam Adekugbe passed a wonderful ball to Cyle Larin; both players contributed effectively off the bench. However, Larin harmlessly skimmed the ball into the bleachers.
For Canada, Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston, and Richie Laryea performed exceptionally well.
From the first minute on, Miller was primed and ready to go, and he was mainly to blame for containing Belgium’s forwards in the final third. Miller stopped a huge goal opportunity for Batshuayi in the 22nd minute by intercepting a modified 2-on-1 situation and then correctly closing onto the Belgian striker, clearing his shot attempt to safety. Although Laryea could have also been chosen Canada’s man of the match, Miller received the honor anyway, and we are not protesting the decision. He will not stay in MLS for very long.
Johnston often found ways to send dangerous crosses into the penalty area while going on long runs between Canada’s defense and attack. Even though Eden Hazard of Belgium occasionally outplayed him, Johnston always trailed back eagerly and moved regularly throughout the game. His lightning-quick passes into the box will surely give Croatia and Morocco trouble.
Laryea was a threat on both sides of the field and stopped Belgium in the 66th minute from expanding its lead. Miller fell to the ground in the apparent hope that the referee would stop the game for an injury, but De Bruyne surged by him and started a deadly odd-man rush. Aiming for a hat trick, De Bruyne passed the ball to a trailing Batshuayi in the box. Laryea skillfully timed his sliding tackle and successfully blasted the ball to safety.
The Canadian defense’s three had a solid World Cup debut.