Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal as Belgium opened their Qatar 2022 campaign with a hard-fought and, in truth, ill-deserved win over Canada.
The 2018 bronze medalists spent much of this Group F encounter on the back foot, pinned back by an adventurous and energetic side that managed over 21 efforts on goal to their illustrious opponents’ nine.
Of Canada’s many chances, the best came – and went – when they were awarded an early penalty for a Yannick Carrasco handball, spotted by a VAR review. Star man Alphonso Davies stepped up in search of his country’s first FIFA World Cup™ goal but his spot-kick was weak and unconvincing, allowing Thibaut Courtois to make a comfortable save.
The significance of that miss was reinforced just before the interval, when Batshuayi raced through on to a speculative punt forward and lashed a left-foot shot beyond the helpless Milan Borjan.
If we expected that would settle Belgium nerves and allow the world’s No2-ranked team to show their class, we were wrong. John Herdman’s underdogs remained the dominant force in a goalless second half and, while they emerged pointless, the Canucks served notice that they’re here in Qatar to go toe to toe with the heavyweights.
Davies’ rise has been the stuff of fairy tales. But the man standing between Canada’s talisman and a place in his nation’s sporting folklore just happens to be one of the best penalty-stoppers in the game. Courtois had saved five of the last nine spot-kicks he had faced and duly made that six from 10 by guessing right and pushing the ball to safety.
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