Belgium survived a scare to edge out a difficult game against Canada on Wednesday night, with former Chelsea striker Michi Batshuayi scoring the first-half winner. Canada made a lightning quick start, and were awarded a penalty just nine minutes in when Tajon Buchanan’s shot was blocked by the hand of Yannick Carrasco, who was booked.
Alphonso Davies couldn’t capitalise though, putting his penalty too close to Cortouis before the rebound from Jonathan David was sent over the bar.
Belgium continued to struggle throughout the opening thirty minutes, with Buchanan and Jonathan David having shots closed down in front of goal. There was another VAR check for a potential Canadian penalty when Axel Witsel collied with Buchanan, but Canada weren’t given another chance from twelve yards.
Just a few minutes later Canada were made to pay for their missed chances. Toby Alderweireld played a brilliant ball over the top of the Canadian defense, setting up Mich Batshauayi who fired home a decisive volley.
Belgium held their lead into half-time despite a great opportunity for Buchanan, set up by a brilliant cross from Alphonso Davies which the Club Brugge winger could only send over the bar. After the break Canada continued in their positive approach but were unable to create a clear cut opportunity.
Jonathan David did have a half chance with a far post header three minutes into the second half but put it narrowly wide. Belgium grew stronger as the half went on, but a couple of stunning challenges from Kamal Miller and Richie Laryea stopped Michi Batshuayi from having shots at goal.
Canada came close ten minutes from time as substitute Cyle Larin sent a majestic header towards the far corner. Thibaut Courtois was equal to it though, denying Canada a famous equalising goal. Despite a couple of late set pieces Canada were unable to break Belgium down. Their wait for a first World Cup goal and point will go on.
As the Tweet says though, Canada well and truly showed they belong among the best at the World Cup. They played with an intoxicating energy, moving the ball magnificently at times but just didn’t have the final ball in their locker. Of course they’ll look to the saved penalty but the Maple Leafs have so much to be proud of after their first World Cup match for 36 years.
For Belgium, while it was a poor performance, they deserve credit for seeing out the win. Roberto Martinez admitted at full-time that Canada outplayed his side. But whilst giants such as Germany and Argentina gave in to the pressure, Belgium dug in and grinded out the three points, much to Martinez’s relief.
After the draw between Morocco and Croatia earlier, Canada are still well within reach of the knockout stages. They take on 2018 runners-up Croatia next, while Belgium face Morocco. The Red Devils may have got the result but Canada were the stars of the show. They’ve shown that they aren’t just tourists in this World Cup, and have more than enough potential to qualify for the knockout stages.