Kevin De Bruyne threw up his hands in disgust as another pass went astray. Eden Hazard was easily knocked off the ball. Michy Batshuayi was dragged off by his angry coach after a lazy flick at absolutely no one. Belgium fell short of the hype of being the second-ranked team, despite starting the World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Canada on Wednesday (Nov. 23).
Thibaut Courtois saved an early penalty and Batshuayi scored the only goal at Ahmad Bin Ali stadium to spoil the North American team’s return to the tournament after 36 years. Apart from the result, there was little to celebrate for the Belgians, with De Bruyne – one of the world’s best players – mocking the decision to name him player of the match.
“No, I don’t think I’ve played a great game,” said a miserable-looking De Bruyne after hearing his award. “I don’t know why I got the trophy – maybe it’s because of my name.”
Belgium’s aging team has been outplayed at times by Canada, who have yet to collect a point or even score a goal in four World Cup games – including the three games since their debut in 1986. This should have been the game in which the Canadians that series broke. Canada’s star Alphonso Davies wasted the best chance when his penalty was blocked by Courtois, one of 21 shots taken compared to Belgium’s nine.
“They showed tonight that they belong here,” Canadian coach John Herdman said of his players.
WATCH highlights from Belgium’s win against Canada HERE…
3__ shots saved _
1__ penalty saved _
_ Clean slate _
Catch more of the @BelRedDevils star of the #WorldsGreatestShow On #JioCinema & #Sport18 __#FIFAWorldCupQatar2022 #FIFAWConJioCinema #FIFAWConSports18 pic.twitter.com/UsIIndTpJC— JioCinema (@JioCinema) November 23, 2022
A moment of class in the 44th minute decided the game. It wasn’t one of De Bruyne’s brilliant through passes or Hazard’s mazy dribbles, but instead a simple long ball over the top of the Canadian defense by centre-back Toby Alderweireld.
It split the defense and Batshuayi ran on, bouncing the ball twice before leading a left-footed finish into the far corner. “Glad that, without being ourselves, we won the game,” said Belgian coach Roberto Martinez.
Martinez said it was his team’s worst technical performance since taking charge more than six years ago. “But was it the worst match?” he added. “No. Because it’s a win.”
There were six players in their thirties in Belgium’s starting line-up, four of them with more than 100 international appearances. Courtois and De Bruyne could reach triple digits at this World Cup in what looks like a final hurray for this group of players often described as a ‘golden generation’.
(with PTI inputs)