Belgium run ragged by Canada but Michy Batshuayi goal earns them win

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John Herdman was leaving the stage when it was announced that the player of the match would be the next to face the media. The recipient of the FIFA award stunned Canada’s head coach. “Kevin de Bruyne is the player of the match? Wow,” he said. If there was any insult, it was only Canada’s.

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The Belgian playmaker was embarrassed to be singled out for praise as Canada brought everything except the clinical touch to their first World Cup for 36 years. His faithfulness to Roberto Martinez’s team, and Michy Batshuayi’s ruthless finish, were the only highlights of a worrying night. “I don’t think I had a great game. I don’t know why I have the award, maybe it’s the name,” De Bruyne admitted. “I didn’t play a good game, I was included, but the good thing was we found a way to win.”

Martínez claimed that Belgium deserved the win – they were together – despite admitting that a journalist had a point when he asked whether it was his team’s worst performance in the tournament. “It depends what you mean by worst game,” replied the Belgian head coach. “Technically, yes. But the worst performance? No, we won, and you don’t win by chance. Belgium won mainly thanks to Canadian fumbles and Thibaut Courtois’ impressive goalkeeping.

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Canada made 21 attempts at goal while Belgium had nine, but only hit three. One of them was an Alphonso Davies penalty and that too went past Courtois. Canada has now gone a record four games without scoring at the World Cup. His sore heel stood between a memorable night and an undeserved defeat. “We showed we belong here,” said the English-born Herdman. “I’m sure our fans walk away proud that we are a footballing nation.”

Canada’s Alphonso Davies took his first-half penalty, which was saved by Thibaut Courtois. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Davies, who has pledged to donate all his World Cup earnings, was clearly defiant. Canada was not. They went ahead in numbers and exploited gaps in a creaking Belgian defense where Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen showed their combined ages of 68.

A second Canadian penalty claim was missed by errant match officials when Eden Hazard played a reckless backpass to Buchanan, which was caught by Vertonghen. Buchanan was flagged offside. VAR noticed another penalty appeal when Richie Larrea beat Axel Witsel for pace and the midfielder was caught on the calf while chasing. This time it favored Sikzwe’s early decision to award the goal kick.

Canadian captain Atiba Hutchinson, at age 39 the second oldest outfield player in World Cup history behind Roger Milla at age 42, went wide after an excellent run by Davies. Alistair Johnson forced Courtois into a fine save and David selfishly opted to shoot when Larrea was completely unmarked inside the area. His effort went into the arms of the Real Madrid goalkeeper.

Belgium hardly felt threatened until a minute before the break when Canada was undone by a probing ball out past Alderweireld’s defence. The pass sent Batsui running through the gap between the otherwise impressive Lotus…


Source: www.theguardian.com

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