Belgium vs. Canada score: Michy Batshuayi goal spoils Reds’ fine performance; Alphonso Davies misses PK

Belgium held off Canada for a 1-0 win on Wednesday in their World Cup Group F opener. In the 44th minute Michy Batshuayi’s goal after a long ball over the top of Toby Alderweireld made the difference, but Canada had their chances to win. In a big moment early in the match, Alphonso Davies took only the third penalty of his professional career, firing a disappointing shot straight into the arms of Thibaut Courtois.

Canada led the game, taking the ball away from Yannick Carrasco, but Belgium’s half-time changes brought on Amadou Onan and Thomas Meunier could help regain control. Canada had plenty of chances but were unable to make them count, while Belgium will now take a strangulation in group F after Croatia and Morocco played out a goalless draw earlier this morning.

Despite the win, Belgium were overpowered allowing Canada to rip off 22 shots for an xG of 2.61. The Red Devils took just nine shots, with Batshuayi scoring five. He only hit one on target, but that was all that mattered in the end. With Kevin de Bruyne creating four chances himself, someone will have to be there to make the chances count for a better third place finish for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup.

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Here are some takeaways from the match:

Thibaut Courtois is unstoppable

There is no denying the Real Madrid stopper’s status as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. While Davies’ penalty kick wasn’t great, he read it all the way to stop Canada’s momentum early before making three more saves during the match. Behind a chaotic back line, Courtois kept his cool, making big saves and controlling the game. Late on, one of his better saves was a Cyle Larin header as the Canadian forward hit three times to create a chance after entering the match as a spark plug. Late on when Belgium needed a break, Courtois did smart things like dropping the ball to his feet instead of catching it.

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If Belgium are to make a deep run at the World Cup with a patchwork midfield and an aging defence, Courtois will be called upon to make more big saves.

Finishing is key

Both teams had trouble finishing their chances, but Canada was the bigger side. Although this is their first appearance at the World Cup since 1986, they started the game as a team that deserves to be in the game. Star striker Jonathan David took seven shots for an xG of 1.01, but was unable to test Courtois with any of them. As far as he’s concerned, Canada will go in this tournament, but the energy needs to be converted into goals.

By the end of the match, Belgium had managed to settle into a shell, passing the ball between them, welcoming Canada’s pressure. But John Herdman’s side couldn’t make them pay for it. Even the delivery of the set game left a lot to be desired. It’s not terrible when Belgium is the best team in Group F, but both Croatia and Morocco are able to slow down the game so that Canada doesn’t dictate the pace. Without scoring early, things could fall apart before they get going for the Canucks.

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Does Belgium have an attacking problem?

For one of the best teams in the world on paper, Roberto Martinez cannot create chances in such an open game. Playing with fire on their shirts, you’d expect some of that to translate into Belgium’s game, but Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and the defense left a lot to be desired. Belgium’s wing-backs look to get forward and create chances, but Carrasco is easily dispossessed and Timothy Castagne is wasteful with his pass. With such a talented squad, Martinez has other options in the likes of Leandro Trossaro who can push the team forward, but changes to the squad will be needed on Sunday against Morocco.



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