Belgium vs. Canada scores: Michy Batshuayi goal spoils Reds’ fine performance; Alphonso Davies misses PK

Belgium were able to fend off Canada for a 1-0 victory Wednesday in their Group F opener at the World Cup. In the 44th minute, a goal from Michy Batshuayi after a long ball over the top from Toby Alderweireld made the difference, but Canada had their chances to win. In a big moment early in the match, Alphonso Davies stepped up for only the third penalty of his professional career, firing a disappointing take right into the arms of Thibaut Courtois.

Canada were bossing the game, taking the ball off of Yannick Carrasco, but Belgium’s halftime changes bringing on Amadou Onana and Thomas Meunier were able to help regain control. Canada had plenty of chances but weren’t able to make them count while Belgium will now take a stranglehold on Group F after Croatia and Morocco played out a scoreless draw earlier this morning.

Despite the victory, Belgium were overrun allowing Canada to rip off 22 shots for an xG of 2.61. The Red Devils only took nine shots with Batshuayi taking five of those. He only put one on target, but it was the one that mattered in the end. With Kevin de Bruyne creating four chances alone, someone will need to be there to make the chances count to better Belgium’s third-place World Cup finish in 2018.

Here are a few takeaways from the match:

Thibaut Courtois is unstoppable

There’s no denying the Real Madrid shot stopper’s status as one of the best keepers in the world. While Davies’ penalty take wasn’t great, he read it the whole way to stop Canada’s momentum early before making three more saves during the match. Behind a chaotic back line, Courtois kept his cool making big saves and managing the game. Late, one of his better saves was on a Cyle Larin header as the Canadian striker took three shots and created a chance after coming into the matcha as a sparkplug. Late when Belgium needed a breather, Courtois did smart things like chesting down the ball to his feet instead of catching it.

If Belgium are to make a deep run in the World Cup with a patchwork midfield and aging defense, Courtois will be called upon for more big saves.

Finishing is key

Both teams had issues finishing their chances but Canada’s loomed larger. While this is their first World Cup appearance since 1986, they started the match like a team that deserved to be in the game. Star striker Jonathan David took seven shots for an xG of 1.01 but wasn’t able to test Courtois with any of them. As far as he goes Canada will go in this tournament but the energy needs to be converted into goals.

By the end of the match, Belgium were able to settle into a shell, passing the ball among themselves while welcoming pressure from Canada. But John Herdman’s side weren’t able to make them pay for it. Even seen play delivery left much to be desired. It’s not doom and gloom when Belgium are the best team in Group F, but both Croatia and Morocco are able to slow the game down so that Canada isn’t dictating the pace. Without scoring early goals, things could crumble before they get going for the Canucks.

Does Belgium have an attacking problem?

For one of the best teams in the world on paper, not being able to create chances in a game this open has to be a concern for Roberto Martinez. Playing with fire on their kits, you would’ve expected some to translate into Belgium’s play but Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and the defense left much to be desired. Belgium’s wing backs want to get forward and create chances but Carrasco was dispossessed easily and Timothy Castagne was wasteful with his passing. With such a talented squad, Martinez has other options like Leandro Trossard that can push the team forward but lineup changes will be needed on Sunday against Morocco.

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