Canada marks impressive return to men's FIFA World Cup

Canada's Kamal Miller moves the ball with Belgium's Michy Batshuayi in pursuit.

A 36-year wait finally came to end for Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team when they played Belgium for their opening game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. Despite leading in shot attempts, Canada lost 1:0 with the goal coming from Michy Batshuayi in the 44’ minute. "We're proud of what they did, really proud", said John Herdman, Canada Soccer's Men's National Team Head Coach. "They proved that they can play here and we can push on if we stay connected, we keep believing and we keep building on our brotherhood."

After starting the game on the front foot, Canada was awarded a penalty early on. Unfortunately, Alphonso Davies' strike from the spot was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Canada had two more penalty shouts in the first half, when Axel Witsel stepped on Richie Layea's foot inside the penalty box and when Tajon Buchanan was taken down by a Belgium defender. Both challenges were deemed fair by the referee.

It was 20 minutes into the game when Belgium got their first chance. Prior to that, Canada had all the attacking play.

Alistair Johnston had one of the best chances of the match. He found himself in open space on the edge of the 18-yard box. He had an option to his right and an option to his left, but the defender took a powerful strike that tested Courtois, a test the Belgium keeper passed with a parried shot.

Moments later, Davies had split Eden Hazard and Youri Tielemans before playing a pass to Jonathan David for a give-and-go. Davies then laid off a pass for Atiba Hutchinson who took a strike that missed the target.

The second was more of the same from Canada, but the team ran out of steam and time. Canada was searching for that equalizing goal, which gave up space in their defensive-third for Belgium to hit on the counter-attack.

Attackers like Kevin De Bruyne and Batshuayi tried to take advantage of the extra space but were met by Canada’s back wall. Defender Kamal Miller pulled off multiple sliding tackles that stopped Belgium in its tracks. Steven Vitoria ventured forward and stepped up to take care of passes that beat the Canadian midfield. In one instance, Richie Laryea flew in with a hard slide tackle to Block a worrying Batshuyai's shot.

Canada’s defensive work wasn’t in total vain. It wasn't for the lack of chances that Canada lost the game, but for the lack of time. Substitute Cyle Larin had two chances toward the end of the match. His header in the 80’ minute was saved by Courtois, five minutes later Larin’s second header flew over the bar.

Canada will take their positive performance from their opening match of the tournament into their next match against Croatia on Sunday.

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