MATCH RECAP: Canada rue penalty miss vs. Belgium in World Cup opener loss
The Canadian men’s national team began its 2022 World Cup journey on Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat to Belgium.
Canada boss John Herdman went with a fairly unsurprising starting XI, although Richie Laryea started instead of Sam Adekugbe while Junior Hoilett also got the nod in attack. Belgium manager Roberto Martínez, likewise, went with a typical setup as Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne led the side — the only major absence being striker Romelu Lukaku, who was replaced up front by Fenerbahce’s Michy Batshuayi.
The match opened with a frenetic pace, as Canada caught the Belgians by surprise by attacking high up the pitch and looking to retain the ball for stretches. The Canadians had more chances in the opening stages, and would ultimately end the first half outshooting their opponents 14 to four.
Very shortly into the first half — just eight minutes in — a golden opportunity fell for Canada, as a handball in the penalty area prompted the referee to award a penalty kick. Alphonso Davies stepped up to take it, but Real Madrid ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois stopped the attempt and the game remained level at zero.
Toward the end of the first half, though, Belgium finally found what they were looking for against the run of play. They won the ball and centre-back Toby Alderweireld, crossing over the halfway line, sent a good ball over the top toward Batshuayi, who needed just one touch to slot it past Milan Borjan and make it 1-0 in the 44th minute.
The second half proceeded in similar fashion as Canada chased the game; Cyle Larin, coming in as a substitute, had arguably Canada’s best chance of the latter 45 with a header that Courtois managed to catch with a diving effort. Herdman went to his bench several times, bringing Larin, Ismaël Koné, Sam Adekugbe, Jonathan Osorio, and Liam Millar off the bench in an effort to scrape a goal.
They continued to operate heavily on the ball, manufacturing a few set-pieces and balls into the box, but ultimately the back of the net continued to elude Canada, as it has done at the World Cup since 1986.
The Belgians thus saw out the 1-0 victory, taking top spot in Group F after the first round of games. Canada will now turn their attention to Croatia, whom they will play this Sunday, Nov, 27 (11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT).
Belgium: Courtois; Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Dendoncker; Carrasco, Witsel, Tielemans, Castagne; E. Hazard (Trossard 62′), Batshuayi (Openda 78′), De Bruyne
Canada: Borjan; Miller, Vitória, Johnston; Laryea (Adekugbe 74′), Eustáquio (Osorio 81′), Hutchinson (Koné 58′), Hoilett (Larin 58′); Davies, David, Buchanan (Millar 81′)
44′ — Michy Batshuayi (Belgium)
9′ — Yellow: Yannick Carrasco (Belgium)
54′ — Yellow: Thomas Meunier (Belgium)
56′ — Yellow: Amadou Onana (Belgium)
82′ — Yellow: Alphonso Davies (Canada)
83′ — Yellow: Alistair Johnston (Canada)