Batshuayi gave the Red Devils a nervous start

Michy Batshuayi celebrating his goal

Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal as Belgium beat Canada 1-0 in their 2022 World Cup opener at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.

Leading the line in Romelu Lukaku’s absence, Batshuayi’s goal in the 44th minute was enough to settle a tense Group F clash in favor of the Red Devils.

Roberto Martinez’s side thanked Thibaut Courtois, who saved Alphonso Davies’ early penalty, as they generally struggled against the country ending their 36-year absence from the final.

Nevertheless, Belgium extended their group stage winning streak to eight games, with no team enjoying a longer streak in the competition’s history (level with Brazil).

Belgium had a shaky start against the Canucks, who were awarded a penalty when VAR ruled Yannick Carrasco had tackled Tajon Buchanan’s shot in the box but Courtois guessed right to keep out Davies’ spot-kick by diving to his right.

The first coach to guide a nation to both women’s and men’s World Cups, John Herdman saw his team continue to pose a greater attacking threat. Alistair Johnston scorched Courtois’ palms with fierce strikes, while Buchanan and Atiba Hutchinson missed the mark.

READ ALSO: La Albiceleste stun in Group C opener

But Belgium took the lead against the game just before half time; Batshuayi locked in Toby Alderweireld’s long ball before firing past Milan Borjan.

Even though they were superior in possession, Belgium continued to show their game as they only managed one shot on target after the break.

Canada looked to capitalize by bringing on top scorer Cyle Larin, whose header put Courtois into action with 10 minutes remaining, but they were unable to equalize as their opponents held on for a narrow victory.

What does it mean? Belgian struggle against Canadian spirit

Despite being far from their best form, Belgium moved to the top of Group F following Croatia’s goalless draw with Morocco earlier.

Despite the loss, it was a historic day for Canada, who returned to the final after 36 years of absence and it was a shame not to break their duck after saving Davies’ penalty.

Meanwhile, captain Hutchinson became the oldest outfield starter in World Cup history – aged 39 years and 288 days.

Batshuayi stepped forward

With Lukaku’s return date uncertain, Batshuayi stepped forward with his 27th international goal in 49 games – moving him to sixth with Joseph Mermans on his country’s all-time list.

The Fenerbahce forward’s fine strike came from one of five shots on target – a tally only Canadian Jonathan David (six) matched that night

History for Courtois

No player has made more appearances for Belgium at major tournaments than Courtois (23, level with Jan Ceulemans).

The Real Madrid keeper has also come close to becoming the Red Devils’ seventh officer by making his 98th appearance and he celebrated the milestone with a clean sheet, as well as a superb reflex to deny Davies from the penalty spot.

What’s next?

Both sides return to action in Group F on Sunday. Belgium will be looking to put in a better performance against Morocco, while Canada can’t afford another loss against 2018 finalists Croatia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *