Michy Batshuayi scored the game’s only goal in the first half to help Belgium get off to a winning start to the campaign, but the goal came after goalkeeper Thibaut Courteous saved a penalty in the 11th minute. An energetic Canada, who were back at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, should have had a well-deserved lead early in the game, but Alphonse Davies failed to convert the free kick.
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Leading the Belgian attack in the absence of injured talisman Romelu Lukaku, Batshuayi scored against the run of play on the stroke of half-time to put the red devils top of the group ahead of Morocco and Croatia who had previously drawn 0-0.
In their only other World Cup appearance in Mexico in 1986, Canada lost all three games and scored zero.
They looked set to score their long-awaited first goal when Belgian Yannick Carrasco handled the ball in the 11th minute and Alphonso Davies came forward to take the penalty to the roars of Canadian fans. But Courtois, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, denied Davies a historic score by stopping his weak spot kick.
Michy Batshuayi’s goal is enough to give victory to Belgium 🇧🇪@adidasfootball | #Fifa World Cup
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1669237428000
The Canadian attack continued to press, their speed creating havoc in the Belgian defense and keeping Courtois busy throughout the first half.
But against the run of play, Belgium took the lead when Batshuayi broke between two defenders, ran on a long ball and passed goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 44th minute.
Canada coach John Herdman said his men would bring nothing to lose in their opener against the second-ranked Belgians, who arrived in Qatar with the burden of waiting.
The @BelRedDevils top the Group F standings 🔝#FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1669238738000
Third in the 2018 final in Russia, Red Devils fans want more from the star-studded outfit dubbed the ‘Golden Generation’ this time around.
Canada, who surprised by finishing top of the CONCACAF qualifying group ahead of traditional regional powers Mexico and the United States, represented a potentially tricky opening for Roberto Martinez’s side and proved to be exactly that.
The second half was more balanced with both teams generating chances but unable to score.
Belgium can now book a ticket to the round of 16 with a win against Morocco on Sunday, while Canada face Croatia on the same day.
(With agency contributions)