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Belgium 1-0 Canada: Match report, player ratings, expert analysis, fan reaction and more

A first-half strike by Michy Batshuayi a minute before stoppage time was enough to see Belgium climb to top spot in Group F to open their account in Qatar

Number two-ranked Belgium got off to a stuttering start at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after Kevin De Bruyne and company are lucky to take a 1-0 win over underdog outfit Canada at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

Coming into Qatar with expectations once again on the back of depth of talent in the player pool, Belgium have yet to win a major tournament in its history and likely will view 2022 as the last real chance it has as its core of stars continue to eclipse the age of 30, and their performances will already be questioned out of the gate as a young Canadian outfit can feel hard done to come away with nothing after showcasing what North America has to offer.

Canada went into the half-time interval largely on the front foot despite being 1-0 down thanks to a well-struck half-volley from Michy Batshuayi after the CONCACAF outfit out-stripped Roberto Martinez’s De Rode Duivels with 14 shots to just 4 for Belgium. But the North American side certainly could be criticized for a lack of taking their chances as they came, and perhaps none bigger went begging when star man Alphonso Davies had his penalty saved by Real Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois, though Canada will certainly feel hard done after not being awarded a second – if not also a third – penalty.

Further questions could potentially be levied at the fact that Davies, though the undisputed star for his country, has only taken two penalties in his international career while a more seasoned goalscorer in Jonathan David had taken twelve coming into tonight’s proceedings, scoring nine of them. That notwithstanding, Les Voyageurs can go into their remaining fixtures confident of being amongst the points when they lock horns with Croatia and Morocco respectively.

As for Belgium, the golden generation got off to a winning start despite the performance levels not matching the result on balance, with concerns in the team already evident and glaring, particularly in defense. Billed as a side blessed with pace to burn and lauded for their ability to break on the counter, Canada gave Belgium a torrid time of it in defense and has shown that some aging names in the XI might need reviewing, particularly Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

It was an off day at the office overall for star creator Kevin De Bruyne as well, who was hardly his typical efficient self in distribution and the Manchester City man was certainly overshadowed by others in the team including Eden Hazard, while there is scope to suggest that, despite Batshuayi bagged a goal, Belgium certainly missed the clutch presence of all-time leading goalscorer Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium Player Ratings

GK: Thibaut Courtois (8) – A top save on Davies’ penalty sparred Belgian blushes in the first half and generally speaking, the Real Madrid man was very good once again as expected.

RCB: Leander Dendoncker (6) – A holding midfielder by trade, appearances at center back for Wolves saw him included in that vein by Martinez tonight but proved why this might not be reliable.

CB: Toby Alderweireld (7) – An assist for Alderweireld probably gets him a better rating than his actual performance deserved. Was not poor but must be moved away from immediately after Qatar.

LCB: Jan Vertonghen (6.5) – Another of the aging center-back’s under Martinez, there is something to be said for experience at the back in tournament play but better sides are likely to target him moving forward.

RWB: Timothy Castagne (6) – The best that Belgium has to offer in this position, but Castagne has not translated last season’s form at Leicester to recent appearances for club or country. Nothing more than okay tonight.

LWB: Yannick Carrasco (6.5) – Perhaps Martinez persists in starting Carrasco due to a genuine lack of trusted options, but he was okay overall but for a player that does have attacking quality, it never came to the fore.

CM: Youri Tielemans (6) – Not a typical performance by the Leicester City stalwart as Tielemans struggled to cope with Canada’s press in quite a few passages of play.

CM: Axel Witsel (6.5) – Aging in midfield and questionably still considered first choice, Witsel was solid enough on the night but it is easy to see where he can be exposed against a more polished opponent.

RAM: Kevin De Bruyne (6) – Well and truly off the pace for the Manchester City star as De Bruyne struggled to truly control proceedings from start to finished and lacked his usual polish.

LAM: Eden Hazard (7) – Struggling at club level has become the norm for one of Belgian’s best-ever talents but Eden Hazard does perform for the national team and he did so again tonight. Effective and dangerous going forward while remaining tricky on the ball.

CF: Mitchy Batshuayi (7) – Bagged a valuable goal in place of the missing Romelu Lukaku, though Batshuayi is probably guilty of being wasteful at times in terms of when he is on the ball. Still, a decent outing and a good goal.

Sub: Amadou Onana (6.5)

Sub: Thomas Meunier (6)

Sub: Leandro Trossard (6.5)

Sub: Loïs Openda (6)

Canada Player Ratings

GK: Milan Borjan (6.5)

RCB: Alistair Johnston (6.5)

CB: Steven Vitória (6.5)

LCB: Kamal Miller (7)

RWB: Junior Hoilett (6.5)

LWB: Richie Laryea (7)

CM: Atiba Hutchinson (6.5)

CM: Stephen Eustáquio (7)

RW: Tajon Buchanan (7)

LW: Alphonso Davies (6.5)

CF: Jonathan David (6)

Sub: Cyle Larin (6)

Sub: Ismaël Koné (6)

Sub: Samuel Adekugbe (6)

Sub: Liam Millar (6)

Sub: Jonathan Osorio (6)

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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