Canada made a statement in their 2022 World Cup opener against Belgium. In their first World Cup game since 1986, Canada proved to be extremely difficult for the No. 2 ranked team in the world, eventually falling 1-0, but showing that they are a dangerous team in Group F.
Canada coach John Herdman had something even stronger to say about his squad after the match.
“I just told them they belong here and we’re going to go and ‘eff’ Croatia next,” Herdman said. “It’s as simple as that.”
The team has every right to be confident after their performance against Belgium. It was obvious from the jump that Les Rouges were fit to play on the biggest international stage.
After pushing the pace of play in the opening minute, Canada was rewarded with a penalty kick after a Tajon Buchanen shot went off the hand of Yannick Carrasco. It was a premier chance for Canada to grab an early lead, but Alphonso Davies’ attempt was stopped by Thibaut Courtois.
It didn’t stop there, as Canada attempted 21 shots in total, but managed to get just three on Courtois. They finished with 2.61 expected goals, a much higher mark compared to Belgium’s 0.76. However, they could not beat the Belgian goalkeeper, and a goal by Michy Batshuayi in the 44th minute was the difference maker.
While it was a promising showing from a young Canada team, the players had a bittersweet taste in their mouth. Points are crucial in the group stage, and Canada walked away with none. They currently sit in last in Group F after Croatia and Morocco each earned a point in their 0-0 draw.
“We played our hearts out today and we showed the world what we’re capable of,” Junior Hoilett said after the game. “We went out there fearless, (with) a lot of courage and bravery. We played our game, we controlled the game, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the three points we wanted so it’s a bit of mixed emotions.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne were very critical of their team’s performance. However, both went out of their way to praise the efforts from Canada.
“We didn’t play well enough as a team,” De Bruyne said. “I do not know why I won man of the match, maybe because of my name. Credit to Canada. We could not get through their press, we did not play a good game today, me included but we found a way to win.”
“We won so it is not the worst,” Martinez said when asked if this is the worst game in a tournament for him. “But technically yes, this is the worst we have played. Huge respect to Canada. They did very well.”
Canada’s next test will be Croatia, who played Morocco to a 0-0 draw. Herdman’s crew is going to need just as good of an effort on Sunday, as Croatia is ranked No. 12 in the world and Canada is in desperate need of points.
“I know it’s fair to say that we deserved more today,” Steven Vitoria said. “This is the image that we want to leave, but we want to leave it with points, with wins.”