Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Al-Rayyan, Qatar
Canada was taught a hard lesson, losing 1-0 to Belgium in their first World Cup match in 36 years on Wednesday.
For all their dominance, Canada could not score the goal they so deservedly deserved and were frustrated by an Alphonso Davies penalty saved by Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the first half.
The Canadiens had 14 shots on goal in the first 45 minutes on their own but were unable to find the net on a frustrating evening at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.
Belgium reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the European team made Canada pay the price for their profligacy.
Against the run of play, Michy Batshuayi led his team in the first half after the forward chased a long pass.
Canada continued to create chances in the second half but were unable to make a breakthrough.
The entire Canadian national team crowded into the middle of the field after the match as the Belgium players celebrated with their fans.
There must be a sense of disbelief given that Canada didn’t make the most of their impressive performance with frustration etched on their faces.
Despite the defeat, Canada looked like a team that belonged on the world stage and could be proud of giving the second-placed team in the world a real scare.
The performance was clearly appreciated by the thousands of Canadian fans who made the long journey to Doha, with fans staying in their seats cheering their team as the players eventually walked off the field.
Before kicking the ball out at Qatar 2022, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said his teammates weren’t just making up numbers and that was evident against Belgium.
However, Canada must start collecting points and there is now little margin for error in the remaining Group F matches against Croatia and Morocco, who were held 0-0 earlier on Wednesday.
Canada coach John Herdman told reporters after the game, before revealing what he said at the team meeting at the end of the game.
“I was passionate about the circuit. I was really proud and proud to see us represent. I feel like that was a big step for this country.”
Herdman also praised Davies for having a step-up personality and taking the penalty, which Courtois saved with ease.
“It’s a big moment for any player to do that, you carry the weight of the nation. I feel really proud that he caught the ball, it takes a special player to do that.
Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was declared man of the match, a decision that surprised both Herdmann and the Manchester City star.
“I didn’t play well and maybe I got it because of my name,” De Bruyne told reporters.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, who engaged in emotional conversations with De Bruyne throughout the match, congratulated Canada on their performance but said his team had “found a way to win”.
“We have developed today as a team, but we need to be critical of ourselves and develop in the next few days,” Martinez told reporters after the match.
In their two World Cup Group E matches, Spain beat Costa Rica 7-0 in Group E, while Japan surprised Germany, coming from behind to win 2-1.