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World Cup: Canada no longer an unknown quantity as Belgium squeeze a victory
In Belgium’s opening World Cup 2022 match, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came to the rescue of the Red Devils in the face of fierce Canadian opposition, while Michy Batshuayi’s goal gave the team its first tournament win.
It was a nail-biting match for Belgium on Wednesday evening as they started their World Cup campaign under a clear night sky in Qatar’s desert stadium. The first half, although exciting, was dominated by the Canadian team in their first world cup appearance since 1986.
Possession, passing and a pressing defence from Canada defined the game. If not for the poor shooting performance - 26 shots, only four on target - the result could well have been a different story. Star Canadian player Alfonso Davies also missed a penalty after Belgium defender Yannick Carasso handballed, with Courtois taking the credit for keeping Belgium’s match hopes alive.
The speed and skill from Canadian strikers Davies and Jonathan David failed to trouble Courtois’ peerless performance in the Belgium goal. With the defence on the Belgium flank continually breached, he was continually under pressure.
The Red Devils’ brilliant Kevin de Bruyne only touched the ball eight times in the first half, but managed to launch a long pass from his own half to Michy Batshuayi, who was positioned only a few feet from the opposition’s box. Despite pressure from two Canadian players, the striker succeeded in slotting the ball past the goalkeeper to put Belgium in the lead.
The second half saw more energy from the Red Devils, too much some would say as Thomas Meunier and Amadou Onana picked up yellow cards within two minutes of each other. Nevertheless, Belgium was able to exercise more control in the game as Canada tired and the team’s defender Alistair Johnson risked a red card in trying to prevent a strong counterattack from Belgium.
The final score of 1 – 0 for Belgium brought relief to all of the country’s supporters. Canada, despite being the underdogs, did incredibly well considering the standing of their opponent. The Red Devils now face Morocco on 27 November at 14.00.
Photo: Belgium’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (in yellow) joined by fellow players in celebrating the team’s victory against Canada on 23 November © Belga/Virginie Lefour