Belgium got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start as they defeated Canada 1-0 to go top of Group F after a hard-fought encounter today.
The Canadians looked set for a dream start to the game after they were awarded a penalty inside the first 10 minutes as the ball struck Yannick Carrasco’s hand.
However, their dream return to the biggest stage in world football after 36 years quickly turned into a nightmare moment when Alphonso Davies’ penalty was saved by Thibaut Courtois.
Undeterred by the missed penalty, John Herdman’s side continued to pile the pressure on Belgium. They came close to an opener, but Courtois denied Alistair Johnston.
Canada put in a positive display and dominated the Belgians for most of the opening period, but they were soon made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal.
Just before half-time, the Red Devils took the lead when Michy Batshuayi rifled home Toby Alderweireld’s long pass with a first-time half-volley.
Despite snatching a lead, Belgium failed to establish a foothold in the game allowing the Maple Leafs to continue dominating possession.
Cyle Larin went close to finding Canada an equaliser when he glanced Sam Adekugbe’s cross towards goal late in the game, but Courtois would not be denied his clean sheet.
Canada gave a good account of themselves in their World Cup debut, but their decision-making in the final third let them down, and Belgium managed to hold on to secure all three points.
Roberto Martinez’s men were not at their best, but they secured the win. However, they will need a significantly improved performance when they take on Morocco next.
For Canada, they have been made to wait for their first-ever World Cup goal, and they will need to get a positive result when they face Croatia to boost their chances of qualification.
Thibaut Courtois (9/10) *MOTM* – His penalty save arguably won the game for Belgium. He also made a couple of great saves to deny Canada.
Leander Dendoncker (5/10) – Was okay in defence but struggled to deal with some of Canada’s counterattacks.
Toby Alderweireld (7/10) – Had a few tough moments when Davies and Jonathan David started running at him, but was excellent on the ball and provided the assist for the goal.
Jan Vertonghen (5/10) – Wasteful with the ball and could not keep up with the pace of the Canadian attackers.
Timothy Castagne (4/10) – Struggled to contain Davies.
Axel Witsel (5/10) – Tidy with the ball but did not make any real impact with it.
Youri Tielemans (4/10) – Was repeatedly a target of Canada’s press and struggled to make his mark in midfield.
Yannick Carrasco (4/10) – His flank was the target of Canada’s attack. He did the best he could but gave away the penalty before being brought off at half-time.
Kevin De Bruyne (4/10) – For someone of his quality and high standards, his decision-making was off.
Eden Hazard (5/10) – Tried his best to take the game to Canada but could not deal with their athleticism.
Michy Batshuayi (8/10) – Took his goal well and showed he can be relied upon in the absence of Romelu Lukaku.
Thomas Meunier (6/10) – Helped steady things defensively.
Amadou Onana (7/10) – Reclaimed the midfield battle for Belgium, and made his side far more secure on the ball.
Leandro Trossard – 5/10
Lois Openda – 5/10
Milan Borjan (6/10) – Could do nothing about the goal. Solid otherwise.
Alistair Johnston (7/10) – Seemed uncomfortable early in the game but quickly grew into it and delivered a peach of a performance.
Steven Vitoria (7/10) – Was very composed on the ball and stopped most of Belgium’s attacks.
Kamal Miller (7/10) – Put in some vital challenges to stop Belgium’s attack.
Richie Laryea (8/10) – Was a menace down the right flank and created four chances for his side.
Atiba Hutchinson (7/10) – Making his World Cup debut with his 99th cap, he rose to the occasion with some ice-cold play on the ball.
Stephen Eustaquio (8/10) – A balanced performance from the Porto man. He was creative, broke Belgium’s play in midfield, and was composed on the ball.
Alphonso Davies (7/10) – Despite his missed penalty, he played with confidence and was a constant threat to the Belgium defence.
Tajon Buchanan (7/10) – Used his pace and skill to full effect and created several chances. He missed a couple of good ones but delivered a bright performance.
Jonathan David (6/10) – Worked the Belgium defenders all game and was unlucky not to score.
Junior Hoilett (6/10) – Did not see a great deal of the ball but created two chances for his side.
Cyle Larin (5/10) – Missed a decent chance with a free header.
Ismael Kone – 6/10
Sam Adekugbe – 6/10
Liam Millar – 5/10
Jonathan Osorio – 5/10
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