Canada to get everything but points against Belgium in second World Cup | Canada

TOpportunities came one after another. From a distance and at close range. Corner kicks, free kicks and open play. Fearless upstarts from Canada who spent the last couple of years breaking the longstanding order of North American football entered the world stage and brought it to the number 2 team in the world.

They all shone on Monday night, from stars to supporting actors. Stephen Eustaquio, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, Alphonso Davies, Richie Larriea, Junior Hoilett, Alistair Johnston and ageless captain Atiba Hutchinson, three months before their 40th birthday, made demands on Belgium’s creaky defender and their world-class goalkeeper. Any of them could have written themselves into history as Canada’s first goalscorer in the men’s championship. world Cup.

The fast attack that sealed the Canadian gap in CONCACAF qualification and their first appearance at the Men’s World Championship in almost four decades produced at least 10 shots in the first half hour. Each successive attempt sent a group of traveling Canadian fans, already throat-filled since the team’s first appearance to Drake’s Started from the Bottom and the rousing singing of Canada’s national anthem, into a deafening wall of sound.

Then, one minute before the break, the beginning of the dream turned into a nightmare. Almost out of nothing, Michy Batshuayi stumbled upon Toby Alderweireld’s perfect ball and drove it clinically into the far corner of the net, leaving the constellation of white players frozen in stunned silence. It was the Belgians’ first serious chance in the game and ultimately all they needed to walk away with three enchanted points.

“We approached the game with the right mindset,” said Hutchinson, the only Canadian player alive the last time the country played in the men’s World Cup. “Six more points to play. Everyone in our dressing room knows what we are capable of. It’s just a game that didn’t do us any good today.”

Canada’s return to the biggest sporting event after a 36-year absence will never be easy. Drawn into a group with a pair of European giants who just finished in the top four in 2018 – the Belgian team in the golden generation winter and the Croatian team that came in second place four years ago – Les Rouges have always struggled to reach the top. knockout stage.

But this one, a a 1-0 loss in a match they heavily dominated, will sting. And not just because Davies, the 22-year-old full-back at Bayern Munich and the undisputed star of that smug side, was rebounded in the 10th minute after an unflappable Thibault Courtois dived right off him.

Alphonse Davies missed penalty turns out to be decisive
Alphonse Davies’ missed penalty was decisive. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA.

Teams just don’t play that well and lose very often. Canada became the first team since 1978 to score at least 20 shots and one penalty in a game without scoring. just added extra context to injustice: the Canadians’ expected 2.6 goals were the fourth most lost in a World Cup since 1966.

“We won thanks to our experience, the quality of our goalkeeper and a few other things.” Belgium said coach Roberto Martinez. “Canada was better than us, but at the end of the day, winning is more important than a good game. We did what we had to do. But we have to be realistic: against bigger teams, we would have lost this match.”

Canada is no closer to the country’s first World Cup goal than when the night began, but one can’t help but marvel at how far they’ve come. Eight years ago, Les Rouge was ranked 122nd in the FIFA rankings, behind the likes of Lesotho, Palestine and St. Kitts, and were once again knocked out of the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers by an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of Honduras. They haven’t even come close to qualifying for the World Cup since their first and only appearance in 1986, when they crashed out of the group stage, losing to France, Hungary and the USSR.

But their outlook changed dramatically under John Herdman, their 47 year old manager from Consett in County Durham, who was already a national hero after leading the Canadian women’s team to bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Thanks to a large number of young stars who have become big players in European clubs, including Champions League winners Davis (Bayern Munich), David (Lille), Buchanan (Club Brugge) and Sail Larin (Besiktas), they have not lost 17 games. through three grueling rounds of CONCACAF qualifiers before the last window of play and finished ahead of Mexico and the United States for first place in the group.

“I’m proud of the performance,” an emotional Herdman said after the game. “But you need to score three points in the first game. Today we had the opportunity to become the leader of the group, it was a mission, and we missed it. But these guys have shown that they can live on this stage and I think they made the fans proud of them and made them feel like they belong here.”

Herdman’s massive culture change bodes well for 2026, when Canada, along with the US and Mexico, will host the World Cup. But with an unexpectedly important match against Croatia four days later, the last thing he thinks about is the future.

“We will go and leave Croatia, it is as simple as it can be,” he said. This is our next mission.

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