Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar
Despite all its dominance, Canada couldn’t get the goal it so richly deserved and had the frustration of seeing Alphonso Davies’ penalty saved by Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois in the first half.
The Canadians had 14 shots on the Belgian goal in the opening 45 minutes alone but couldn’t find the back of the net on a frustrating evening at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Belgium reached the World Cup semifinals in 2018 and the European team made Canada pay for their wastefulness.
Against the run of play, Michy Batshuayi fired his side ahead in the first half after the striker chased down a long pass.
Canada continued to create chances in the second half but just couldn’t find a breakthrough.
The entire Canada squad huddled in the middle of the pitch after the match as Belgium’s players celebrated with their fans.
There must have been a sense of disbelief given Canada hadn’t made the most of an impressive performance with frustration etched all over their faces.
Despite the defeat, Canada looked like a team that belonged on the world stage and it can be proud of giving the world’s second-ranked team a real fright.
The performance was clearly appreciated by the thousands of Canadian fans who had made the long journey to Doha, with supporters staying in their seats and cheering their team as the players eventually trudged off the pitch.
‘Carrying weight of a nation’
Before a ball was kicked at Qatar 2022, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said his teammates were not content with simply making up the numbers and that much was clear against Belgium.
However, Canada must start picking up points and there is now little margin for error in its remaining Group F games against Croatia and Morocco, who drew 0-0 earlier on Wednesday.
“They showed tonight that they do belong here, its been a while since we’ve been back and our fans were brilliant,” Canada manager John Herdman told reporters after the match, before revealing what he said in the team huddle at the end of the game.
“I was passionate in the circle. I was proud, really proud to see us represent. I feel that was a big step for this country.”
Herdman also praised Davies for having the character to step up and take the penalty that was easily saved by Courtois.
“It’s a big moment for any player to do that, you’re carrying the weight of nation. Really proud he picked the ball up, it takes a special player to do that,” said Herdman.
Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was announced as the best player of the match, a decision which surprised both Herdman – as well as the Manchester City star.
“I did not play well, maybe I got it because of my name,” De Bruyne told reporters.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, who had been involved in passionate conversations with De Bruyne throughout the match, congratulated Canada for their performance but said his side just “found a way to win.”
“Today we grew as a team but we need to be self critical and improve in the next few days,” Martinez told reporters after the game.
In the the two World Cup Group E games, Spain trounced Costa Rica 7-0 in Group E, while Japan stunned Germany, coming from behind to win 2-1.