Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal of the match in the first half to help Belgium get off to a winning start to their campaign, but the goal came after keeper Thibaut Courtois saved a penalty in the 11th minute. An energetic Canada, returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, should have taken a well-deserved lead early in the game, but Alphonso Davies failed to convert the penalty kick.
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Batshuayi led the Belgium attack in the absence of injured talisman Romelu Lukaku and scored against the run of play on the stroke of half time to take the Red Devils head of the group for Morocco and Croatia who previously drew 0-0.
In their only other World Cup appearance in Mexico in 1986, Canada lost all three games and failed to score a goal.
They looked as if they were going to score their highly anticipated first goal as Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco handled the ball in the 11th minute and Alphonso Davies stepped forward to take the penalty as the Canadian supporters roared. But Courtois, one of the world’s best goalkeepers, denied Davies a historic score by saving his feeble penalty kick.
Michy Batshuayi’s goal is enough to give Belgium victory 🇧🇪@adidasfootball | #FIFA world cup
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The Canadian attack kept pushing, their speed wreaking havoc in the Belgian defense and keeping Courtois busy throughout the first half.
But against the odds, Belgium took the lead as Batshuayi broke between two defenders in the 44th minute, ran to a long ball and blasted past goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Canada coach John Herdman said his men would bring nothing to lose in their opening game against the second-ranked Belgians who arrived in Qatar burdened with the burden of anticipation.
The @BelRedDevils top the Group F table 🔝#FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022
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The supporters of the Red Devils, who finished third in the 2018 final in Russia, want more this time from the star-studded squad dubbed the “Golden Generation”.
Canada, which surprised by finishing first in the CONCACAF qualifying group ahead of traditional regional powerhouses Mexico and the United States, represented a potentially tricky opener for Roberto Martinez’s side and proved to be just that.
The second half was even with chances on both sides but no goals scored.
Belgium can now book a Round of 16 ticket with a victory against Morocco on Sunday, while Canada plays against Croatia on the same day.
(With input from agencies)