Canada stands last in Group F at the FIFA World Cup after the opening matchday, but that’s definitely not the grade they earned in a 1-0 loss to Belgium.
Canada dominated play in the first half — save for the few seconds when Belgium conjured their winning goal — and controlled it in the second half.
They played like a team that believes it can gain the points to advance from the group stage, although it’ll be harder now that Belgium, Morocco and Croatia all have points — and Canada doesn’t.
These are the player ratings for Canada’s opening game in their first World Cup since 1986:
Canada World Cup player ratings vs. Belgium
Jonathan David (striker): 5.5
As much as it hurt for Canada to miss a penalty and have another denied them, David botched the best opportunity in open play when he had the ball and was covered at the top of the box, but wingback Richie Laryea arrived unchecked to his right. It was an easy pass to spot, but David missed it and cut loose his own shot, which was blocked. It was a costly decision in a one-goal defeat.
Junior Hoilett (forward): 6
One of the least active players in the attack, with only 18 touches and a single shot, Hoilett did have an impressive moment when he applied vicious pressure along the end line as Belgium attempted to play the ball out of the back in the 55th minute. Hoilett’s work in that instance forced a corner kick for Canada.
Tajon Buchanan (forward): 7
Buchanan was out there bossing Belgium players who were eight-figure salaries. He should have won a penalty early in the game when he was fouled after intercepting a back pass by Eden Hazard. He was judged to be in an offside position, although according to the rules he couldn’t have been offside on the defensive back pass.
He had a great chance in the first half, but his sliding attempt at a strike soared over the goal. His threat diminished as the game advanced, but he showed what he’s capable of achieving.
Richie Laryea (wingback): 7
Laryea made Canada’s most spectacular play when he ran down a Belgium break and slid in from the side to block a shot by Michy Batshuayi that could have doubled the disadvantage.
Laryea was a constant threat to the Belgian defense, although he didn’t handle all of his opportunities perfectly, firing a speculative shot from distance that didn’t come close. That was right before his big block, so he atoned quickly.
Atiba Hutchinson (midfielder): 7
It says plenty about how stout Canada was in the center of the field that Belgium’s only goal came on a long pass that flew over that sector of the field. Hutchinson completed 87 percent of his passes, executed two tackles, and won four of his six duels.
Stephen Eustaquio (midfielder): 8
The difference between Canada’s two central midfielders: One is 14 years younger and able to do his job longer and with greater energy. Both Hutchinson and Eustaquio were terrific. But the latter was even more involved: completing more passes, winning more balls, and generally doing more damage to the Belgium attack.
Alphonso Davies (wingback): 6.5
Given how he roamed about the field, from his assigned position to a No. 10 position after Canada fell behind, and how he undressed Belgium’s defenders on multiple occasions, Davies would have been at 9 or above in a win or draw. But he had the ball on his toe with a chance to put Canada ahead of Belgium and its balky attack.
And he didn’t.
His penalty attempt was saved by Belgium netminder Thibaut Courtois, who may be the greatest goalkeeper on the planet. But his choice of target was so obvious that anyone who was watching would have dove in the same direction.
Alistair Johnston (defender): 7
He created Canada’s best scoring chance (in the non-penalty category) with a cross that arrived directly on striker Cyle Larin’s forehead. But, again, Thibaut Courtois came up big. He also disrupted two Belgium opportunities in succession near the top of the box that could have been turned into serious strikes.
Steven Vitoria (central defender): 7
Was as solid as necessary at the heart of Canada’s three-man back line, responsible for a clearance and a blocked shot and completing 87 percent of his passes as the team advanced the ball. He did miss on a jumping attempt to head away a corner kick from his own goal and allowed Belgium to get a clean header that went over the bar.
Kamal Miller (defender): 5
He failed to recognize the potential of Batshuayi’s run and was unable to close him down after he fielded the pass. He was not singularly responsible for the goal; there should have been pressure on Belgium’s Toby Alderweireld as he prepared to launch the long ball forward. But Miller should have done better.
Milan Borjan (goalkeeper): 6
There wasn’t a ton he could have done about the goal, which was a furious shot with no defender to impede Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi. He did make two saves.
Cyle Larin (forward): 6
Depending on your vantage point, Larin was either great because he got himself into position for so many chances — 15 touches is a lot for a striker in 32 minutes — or middling because he struggled to turn any of them into great chances.
Ismael Kone (midfielder): 6.5
Completed 97 percent of his passes and kept the midfield secure.
Sam Adekugbe (wingback): 6.5
Another short-term sub who kept possession, completed passes and allowed the key players up front to keep pushing for the equalizer. His best contribution was a great cross that Larin couldn’t turn into a clean header.
Liam Millar (forward): 5
One of Canada’s last chances was a late corner kick, which Millar attempted and drove past everyone into the open space on the opposite side of the goal.
Jonathan Osorio (midfielder): 5
Wasn’t on long, and he twice lost possession.