Belgium spoils Canada’s World Cup return with 1-0 victory
Thibaut Courtois saved an early penalty and Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal to give Belgium a 1-0 win over Canada at the World Cup on Wednesday, spoiling the North American team's return to the tournament after 36 years.
The Canadians have yet to collect a point or even score a goal in four World Cup matches, which includes the three games from their debut in 1986.
Still, they outplayed second-ranked Belgium at times at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, with Alphonso Davies — the star of Canada's team — squandering the best chance when his penalty was blocked by Courtois.
With Eden Hazard ineffective and Kevin De Bruyne's passing unusually awry, Belgium often relied on the long ball from the back and that tactic led to the 44thminute goal. Center back Toby Alderweireld split the defense with his pass and Batshuayi ran through to guide a leftfooted finish into the far corner.
Batshuayi was only playing because first-choice striker Romelu Lukaku was injured and could potentially miss the entire group stage.
Canada had 21 shots compared to the nine of Belgium, whose well-established team filled with veterans was far from convincing.
There were six players in their 30s in the starting lineup, four of them having accrued more than 100 international appearances. Courtois and De Bruyne might reach three figures at this World Cup, in what looks like being a last hurrah for this group of players often described as a "golden generation."
The absence of Lukaku — a prolific scorer and big presence up front — is a huge blow to coach Roberto Martinez, with Batshuayi failing to impress aside from his well-taken goal.
Belgian national team head coach Roberto Martinez feels that based on how the player feels, Inter striker Romelu Lukaku would like to be fit for Belgium’s second World Cup group stage match against Morocco.
Speaking to a press conference, the Belgium coach explained that while the medical team are not as optimistic, Lukaku himself could be targeting a return against Morocco.
The Red Devils’ second group stage match against Morocco over the weekend could be optimistic, but according to Martinez, the player himself is still hoping that he can be ready in time.
We’re very happy with the progress of his recovery,” the coach said of Lukaku.
“Yesterday he had an excellent training session, not with the group yet, but he’s progressing steadily.
“We don’t have an exact timeline to follow, I’m not able to say if he’ll be available for the second or third group match,” the coach continued.
Martinez explained that “If I follow the doctors’ advice, I’d say for the third game.”
Indeed, all the best moves came from a mobile and attacking Canada team in front of their loud, Maple Leaf-waving fans.
Davies stood out with his driving runs from left back while captain Atiba Hutchinson, at the age of 39, became the oldest outfield player to start a World Cup match.
They had 14 shots in the first half alone, the most by a team at the World Cup without scoring in 16 years.
Why is Thomas Meunier wearing a mask?
Meunier suffered a fractured cheekbone in Dortmund's clash with Hannover 96 earlier this season.
The right-back had to undergo surgery on the injury, which caused him to miss weeks of football.
But Dortmund revelled surgery was a success and that Meunier would be part of Belgium's World Cup squad.
He started on the bench for Belgium in their clash against Canada, but came on in the second half.
South Korea star Son will wear a mask when he steps onto the field to play Uruguay on Thursday afternoon.
Son also suffered a fracture in his face, more specifically around the eye socket, while playing for Tottenham in the Champions League.
Footballers often wear protective masks when they sustain face injuries.