Belgium kicked off their World Cup campaign with a difficult win against a relentless Canadian side, who spurred multiple chances to stage an upset.
The match got off to a high paced start with the underdogs, Canada, pushing men forward and pressing Belgium in possession. The high tempo start paid off for the Canadians, as Buchanan’s effort struck Yanick Carrasco’s outstretched arm inside the penalty area in the 10th minute. After a VAR review, the referee awarded Canada a penalty, which Alfonso Davies stepped up to take.
Davies struck his penalty to the bottom left, but Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtrois dove the right way and kept the scores level at 0-0.
Canada were not disheartened by their miss, and continued to apply pressure over the next ten minutes. In the 16th minute, Johnston played a perfect pass to Hoilett who cut inside and dragged his shot past the post.
Belgium’s first chance came in the 23rd minute, when Youri Tielemans played in Batshuayi, whose shot was blocked via a last ditch tackle from Miller.
In the 38th minute, Canada had their second penalty shout of a half which they had dominated to that point. Laryea went down in the box after a nudge from Wixel. However, after a VAR check, the referee signaled for play to continue.
In the 44th minute, against the run of play – a long ball over the top from Alderweireld found Batshuayi in the box. The Belgium forward made no mistake with his finish, rifling the ball into the back of the net to give Belgium a 1-0 to take into half-time.
The second half started with Canada continuing to show initiative in making runs forward and pressing Belgium to win back possession high up the field. However, both teams faltered when it came to making the crucial final pass in the box. In particular, Kevin De Bruyne was guilty in multiple occasions – often misplacing passes or choosing the wrong option.
The biggest chance of the half fell to Canada, when a great cross was whipped in towards Larin, who failed to make a strong enough connection with the ball. His header was firmly grasped by the hands of the Belgian goalkeeper Courtois.
The last ten minutes of the game consisted of failed counter attacks and incomplete final passes from both sides. The game ended in a 1-0 win for Belgium, but Canada will be hugely encouraged by their performance as they look forward to their matches against Croatia and Morocco.