Belgium 1-0 Canada: World Cup 2022 – as it happened

Last modified: 09: 34 PM GMT+0

Canada dominated Belgium for long periods of the teams’ Group F encounter but Michy Batshuayi scored what proved to be the only goal

Here is Andy Hunter’s match report.

We will see no postgame comments on Fox. Pity. I’d love to hear from Herdman right now.

Canada's head coach John Herdman, center, gathers his team after an unlucky loss.
Canada's head coach John Herdman, center, gathers his team after an unlucky loss. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

So to recap:

  • Canada dominated play but misfired on too many chances

  • Courtois made two exceptional saves

  • Belgium scored an outstanding goal

  • VAR had a shocking miss that could’ve given Canada another early penalty

  • Canadian universities are not colleges

  • There is such a thing as a “Drake curse”

I’ll be here for Canada’s next game, a 4-1 victory unless that “Drake curse” is worse than I thought. See you then.

And another stat. Well, two, one involving a Canadian musician who is neither Geddy Lee nor Sarah McLachlan:

Canada are the first World Cup team since 1978 to attempt at least 20 shots and 1 penalty kick and not score a goal 😳

They took the pitch to 'Started From the Bottom'. The latest victims of the Drake curse 😅 pic.twitter.com/uHe69CLIAz

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 23, 2022

And the master statman adds:

🇧🇪 1-0 🇨🇦

🇨🇦 Canada's 2.6 xG are the fourth-most by a team in a World Cup loss since 1966.

🇩🇪 No. 1 was Germany earlier today.

🇧🇷 No. 2 was Brazil in the 2018 quarters, also vs Belgium. pic.twitter.com/HYoHgNqhoU

— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 23, 2022

Fox’s lightning-rod commentator comments:

Well done Canada🇨🇦⚽️. Back in the World Cup after 36 years and clearly the better team in the 1-0 loss vs. Belgium. You got hosed, eh. pic.twitter.com/pAE2r8l7ER

— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) November 23, 2022

Email check before adding more postgame info:

Travis Giblin: “I never thought I’d see the day where a Casey Scheidigger reference was in place AND received by the readership. For those who didn’t get the reference she’s a skip for a successful curling team out of Alberta.”

I missed the opening game of this Cup because I was running a bonspiel. True story.

Tim Smith: “Is this stadium at altitude? I’d always assumed that Qatar was flat but not sure I can recall so many wayward shots being ballooned over the goals.”

I think it’s what is often called a rush of blood to the head.

Ove Nilsson asks that I mention the player coming out in a substitution as well as the player coming on. I thought I did?

FULL TIME: Belgium 1-0 Canada

Let’s be fair – Belgium had the three best plays in this game: a superbly taken goal on a Route One pass, Courtois’ penalty save, and Courtois’ save on the Larin header.

And Canada’s inexperience on this stage showed. Davies took a nervous penalty. A lot of shots were squandered.

But then let’s sum it up – Canada was by far the better team here against the obvious group favorites. And they have a solid case that they were robbed of a second penalty chance early in the game that would’ve drastically changed the course of things.

That bodes well for the rest of the group stage, at least. Does anyone doubt Canada can beat Croatia or Morocco?

The Belgium players celebrate their win over Canada with their supporters.
The Belgium players celebrate their win over Canada with their supporters. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA
Whilst Canada's players, including Jonathan Osorio (right) are disappointed with the result.
Whilst Canada's players, including Jonathan Osorio (right) are disappointed with the result. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Updated

90 +5 min: Miller is down in some discomfort.

Ball floats to Borjan all alone, and this time, he just tosses it to a teammate.

And … the ref blows for full time? Not even a second of additional stoppage time?

90 +4 min: Belgium takes about 20 minutes to take a throw-in, which will hopefully prolong our stoppage time, if this ref is following the new directives on the matter.

Ball deflects to Borjan, who punts it … to Courtois.

90 +3 min: Millar gets into the box and tries to cross back through a thicket of Belgium defenders. I don’t see it happening at this point.

90 min: We’ll get five minutes of stoppage time as Belgium earns a corner that will eat a bit of that.

Ingo Herzke argues with the BBC: “Keith Barrett wrote about that incident: “with the replay showing that he won the ball, before the Canadian attacker subsequently hit the deck.” That is a VERY one-sided view, I’d say; the Belgian defender just brushed the ball with his big toe before stamping Buchanan with his studs. Ridiculous. And Witsel’s foul was very obvious as well. Canada wuz robbed!”

So there.

A clever short corner from Belgium leads to a rather tame shot in the end. Borjan makes only his second save of the game, neither of them difficult. He’s an outstanding keeper, as you’d know if you watched CONCACAF qualifiers.

89 min: Attack down the left, a glimmer of space, and Belgium has to block a Canadian cross for a corner.

The crowd is up …

… and the kick almost lands on the opposite sideline. (Or “almost goes into touch on the fly.”)

88 min: Yet another half-chance for Canada.

Michelle Peters-Jones: “Don’t be saying stuff about Alberta! Alphonso Davies is from Alberta! Currently the only bright light in our Alberta’s lives!” Hey, there’s also Casey Scheiddegger, isn’t there?

86 min: Oh, another Canadian chance! Larin has space as the cross comes in, but he mistimes his jump and sends his header high.

Michael Goulborn says Bermuda would have to put up goals on a golf course. There was actually a decent player for the Baltimore Blast indoor team from Bermuda – David Bascome, maybe?

86 min: Now it’s De Bruyne solidly in possession, but his shot is nowhere near the target.

83 min: Now THAT is a yellow card, as Alistair Johnston raises to catch the fresh-legged sub Openda and slides through him.

Canada's Alistair Johnston fouls Belgium's Lois Openda and gets booked.
Ooof. Photograph: Darko Bandić/AP

John Davis: “Cheers for the cracking MBM. This seems to be the definition of a ‘played badly but ground out the three points’ match from Belgium. You’d praise a top four Premier League team for it. Gutted for Canada though - they’ve deserved something.”

Hey, it’s not over yet! Is it?

Tim Hoult mentions the North American singular verb tense. I tend to go back and forth as I ponder whether to move to Europe. (Not too seriously. Well, maybe not.)

After a delay to let Openda recover, the free kick results in a header well over the bar.

Updated

82 min: For those who track such things, Canada has outshot Belgium 20-5. They have, however, only put three on target. None better than the last one, even including the penalty.

80 min: WHAT A SAVE BY COURTOIS. The cross from Johnston is right on Larin’s head, and the striker redirects it to the far post, only to see the outstanding Belgian keeper leap to his right and snare it with both hands.

Canada's Cyle Larin heads at goal but Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois saved his header.
Canada's Cyle Larin heads at goal. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Cyle Larin of Canada reacts after Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois saved his header.
Larin reacts after Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois saved his header. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images

Last roll of the dice: Osorio and Millar replace Buchanan and Eustáquio. The latter is an unfortunate loss.

And now Davies has a yellow card. A bit … yeah, I’m not a fan of this ref.

Updated

78 min: Batsuayi, the goal scorer who played in Lukaku’s usual spot today, is departing. Openda is in.

Kari Tulinius: “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen center-back Steven de Souza Vitoria play before, but I’ve already taken a liking to him. He’s on the field to keep the ball far away from his goal and if that means launching the ball towards Saturn, then so be it. But he’s also got proper route one passes in his locker and isn’t afraid to try his luck.”

Andrew Benton corrects my spelling on Trossard and adds: “I hope Canada are not deflating. They need as much flate as they can get in this match.”

I would say I’m not overwhelmed by Belgium’s performance here. At best, I’m whelmed.

76 min: Ball is knocked away from Larin in the box.

Buchanan appears to have taken a knock.

Peter Oh writes to mention that, when it comes to Bermuda, we should watch for their passing triangles. Well played.

73 min: Long ball ahead to Larin, but Courtois is alert.

Ken Clare: “Don’t you wish that Canadians would stop writing to explain Canada to you? Makes us all look like we all live in Alberta.”

I always enjoy seeing provincial curling championship broadcasts with so many ads for farm equipment.

Sam Adekugbe comes in for Canada, replacing Laryea, and Fox’s Cobi Jones (longtime US international) runs through a list of likely tactical changes that ensues.

71 min: I’m trying to get through all the emails to distract myself from the increasing likelihood that this young, excellent Canadian squad isn’t going to get the result they richly deserve.

Michael Goulborn: “I’m not really a footie fan, but completely absorbed (from Bermuda) by your fantastic commentary. When I should be doing some work….. Keep up the good work!”

Bermuda, the next CONCACAF power?

Keith Barrett: “On the incident in the 13th minute: the BBC coverage focused on this at half-time. The ball came off a Belgian defender and so wasn’t offside. However, what followed was not a foul either: the Belgian defender made a clean tackle, with the replay showing that he won the ball, before the Canadian attacker subsequently hit the deck. So the ultimate decision (no penalty) was correct.”

Yeah, but the English think everything is a clean tackle. (Except for the fine folks at The Guardian.)

Peter Oh: “Thanks for the hockey reference. I would love to see a Canada shot beat Courtois five-hole.”

(That’s a nutmeg, in soccer terms. Through the legs.)

Justin Madson: “In response to Steve’s pedantry about the Jordan Rule, I also came across Jordan’s Rule, which states “given any species in any region, the nearest related species is not likely to be found in the same region nor in a remote region, but in a neighbouring district separated from the first by a barrier of some sort”. I feel this gives us some insight as to why the referee seems to be different than the others calling matches so far, because he apparently is watching a different game than everyone else. On a separate note, to your credit “superstar” calls in the NBA are alive and well, thanks to officiating acting as PR in that league. As everything is about PR with this World Cup, one might wonder...”

OK then …

68 min: Belgium attacking now, to the point that Canada almost has a counter.

You have to wonder if Canada is already starting to deflate. Brutally unlucky not to be up or at least tied at this stage.

67 min: A terrific chance for Belgium, but it’s another heroic interception by a player who isn’t identified because Fox is busy giving an update on some Harry Kane dude.

It was Canada’s Richie Laryea that slid in to thwart Belgium's Michy Batshuayi.
It was Canada’s Richie Laryea that slid in to thwart Belgium's Michy Batshuayi. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

67 min: Richard hirst: “Left bank brings to mind an existentialist with a Gaulloises and a Ricard. Maybe that’s Belgium’s problem!”

Counter to Belgium, but a timely interception keeps De Bruyne from going to the races.

Immediately back the other end, and Laryea sends a shot well wide.

65 min: Corner comes to nothing, and Dendoncker cynically grabs Buchanan to prevent a counter.

Peter Littley: “Think the Canadian players have worked out if you fall down this referee will give the foul.”

That, and the Belgian subs are playing a tad negatively.

Tossard, though, shows some class right away with a backheel that splits two defenders and ends up cleared for a corner.

63 min: Looks like the referee correctly played advantage after a badly mistimed tackle, and Canada gets a shot out of it. Unfortunately, it’s to the misfiring Buchanan, whose shot will shortly land in the Persian Gulf.

61 min: We have to be fair here – Belgium is, obviously, full of talented players, and Eden Hazard just made a nifty move to keep an attack going on the sideline.

Then Belgium promptly loses the ball, and it’s all Canada again.

And Hazard will come off … Leandro Tossard is in.

60 min: Meunier, the masked man already on a yellow, commits a needless foul. Free kick 30 yards out, and Eustáquio sends it too far to the far post.

On colleges and universities …

JF Crepault: “Please tell Alison Curtis that her terminology comment is irrelevant as Tajon Buchanan attended *college* in the US :)“

Michael Platt: “Can’t speak for Vancouver but here at the University of Calgary, there is not a seat to be had in any of the student venues showing the game. Absolutely packed.”

58 min: Canadian subs …

Prolific scorer Cyle Larin replaces Hoilett.

Ismaël Koné, age 20, replaces Atiba Hutchinson, age 39.

56 min: YELLOW to Onana for reaching an arm back to swat Eustáquio in the face. So both Belgian subs already have cautions.

Amadou Onana of Belgium catches Canada’s Stephen Eustáquio in the face.
Amadou Onana of Belgium catches Canada’s Stephen Eustáquio in the face. Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Updated

55 min: Pressure wins a Canadian corner, perhaps wrongly so. It comes to nothing.

Padraig McAuliffe writes: “Sad to see Carrasco given the hook. His decade-long stint as a Belgium left-bank has been an inspiring battle against imposter syndrome that we can all take heart from.”

I’m assuming that should be “left-back.” Or not. What was his last transfer fee?

53 min: Yellow card to Meunier for a wayward arm to a face. It’s as if the Belgian subs were sent in like ice hockey enforcers.

Canada's Junior Hoilett reacts as referee Janny Sikazwe prepares to shown a yellow card to Belgium's Thomas Meunier.
Canada's Junior Hoilett reacts as referee Janny Sikazwe prepares to shown a yellow card to Belgium's Thomas Meunier. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Yes, that’s my second ice hockey reference today, but we are talking about Canada here.

Now attempting to curl in the free kick, but it’s through the house without any sweeping.

Updated

51 min: The Canadian press is back in full effect, and Courtois has two moments in which he needs to be very careful with his footwork as the ball is passed back to him.

That brings the crowd back into it.

Steve Kochar writes: “Hey Beau, thanks for doing a great job with the MBM today! Just a note from back in minute 28... The “Jordan Rules” was actually the name for the Detroit Pistons strategy for defending Jordan, when and where to send a double team, that sort of thing. He did get all the calls as well of course but that’s just how the NBA works :) Sorry for the pedantry but that’s what the MBM is for right!”

I think it referred to both the Pistons strategy and the NBA officiating, but I won’t have a chance to look it up at this time while I’m watching Canada squander more chances.

16-4 edge for Canada in attempts at goal.

48 min: CHANCE on a long cross from the superb Eustáquio. David puts his shot just wide.

47 min: The atmosphere died at the half. It’s virtually silent.

Thomas Meunier has replaced Yannick Carrasco.

Amadou Onana has replaced Youri Tielemans, and he immediately commits a silly foul that draws a stern lecture from our referee.

Emails, emails …

Adam Paige: “I wish more broadcasters would use the Elo rather than Fifa ranking since it’s more predictive (Belgium & Canada are 6th & 29th in Elo but 2nd & 41st in Fifa).”

Fair point.

Michelle Peters-Jones: “The weather is lovely here, thank you. Not too cold, at least not as cold as the time the Canadian team played in the Commonwealth Stadium here and we had a lovely snow dive from Sam (Adekugbe). We also had a fun time cheering for our hometown hero, Alphonso (Davies). We even named a train station after him (not really, but one can dream). So hopefully we can beat them aging Belgians.”

I forgot to mention that I’m actually a curler. And yet my cold tolerance is minimal, having grown up in Georgia.

Julian Menz: “A friend of mine is in downtown Vancouver, and reports that there was nary a fan or flag to be seen. It’s early(ish) I know, but most countries would be absolutely COOKING by now! Would it help if it was the Stanley World Cup?”

Stephen Carr: “Evening Beau. Not sure Martinez has what it takes to get a tune out of this team. He is, after all, the man who declared Tom Cleverley to be the ‘most sensational free transfer in the history of the Premier League’ when he signed him for Everton.....”

Martinez is a good TV commentator. Wondering if he should go back to that job.

Alison Curtis: “In Canada we don’t call universities “colleges”. Please get your terminology right.”

Well, that spoils the John Belushi “COLLEGE” T-shirt.

Richard Hirst: “What this game lends itself to is an analysis of the linguistic fissures within the teams. On the one hand Flemish/French/German(yes, a little known part of Belgium) and on the other English/French. Maybe at half time?”

Que?

Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo: “I’m pretty sure that in the Disney retelling of Canada’s world cup run, the coach, played by Robbie Williams, will say to the team in a motivational speech “we’re going to play hockey, but on a pitch!””

I’m picturing an exceptionally polite Ted Lasso.

Matt Dony: “In lieu of any goals, I offer the following - Mentioning the great Sarah McLachlan, I recently discovered that Angel was written about Jonathan Melvoin, who died following an overdose while playing keyboards on tour for the Smashing Pumpkins. The quintessential funeral song, ubiquitous in emotional X-Factor auditions, was inspired, not by a close relative or dear friend, but by a news report of a relatively obscure touring musician passing away on the other side of the world. Now I’m aware of this fact, I’m sharing it far and wide.”

It’s a fairly well-known story – though I say that as a McLachlan and Pumpkins fan – but worth repeating.

Joseph Harvey: “College soccer is pretty bad but it is good preparation for playing with awful referees who are apparently on hard drugs.”

Good point.

Owen Harris uses a bad word on the 39th minute no-call.

Karim Hadhoum: “Canada, coming from behind is a la vogue. So take heart.”

What’s really unfair here is knowing that Canada is absolutely capable of shifting gears. Given a 1-0 lead, Canada could’ve slammed the door.

And from Gorazd: “I’m surprised not much is being said about the situation in the 13th minute, when Canada was robbed. There was absolutely no offside, as the ball was passed back by Hazard. So the flag should never have been raised by the assistant, even worse was that the referee did not ignore it, as he saw everything play out. And then to make matters even worse, VAR did not intervene on what was a clear and obvious error by the referee and very likely a subsequent penalty for Canada. The first major refereeing error at the World Cup.”

Fox Sports went over it in some detail at the half, at least.

More complaining later. Game has restarted.

Revisiting an earlier play – Buchanan was called offside when Belgium clearly passed the ball back to Vertonghen, who then fouls Buchanan.

So Buchanan should not have been called offside.

So Buchanan should’ve earned a penalty.

VAR apparently looked and … saw something different.

That’s shocking in the VAR era. Shocking.

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HALFTIME: Belgium 1-0 Canada

That’s the most dominant half of play by a non-Mexican CONCACAF team since 2014, and they’re down 1-0. Go figure.

Belgium scored on its one solid chance. Canada squandered a penalty and a couple more chances, and give the old-timers in Belgium’s defense some credit for scrambling to block a bunch of shots.

45 +4 min: A Canadian corner kick is deflected out to Eustáquio at the top of the box, and I pity whoever blocked that screamer. Looks like Tielemans. It hit his arms, but he had them tucked in front of his chest to prevent being leveled. Can’t blame him there. That’s Belgium’s sixth blocked shot.

45 +2 min: CHANCE and it was easier for Buchanan to score than to NOT score, but he did the latter. Perfect ball in from Laryea. Buchanan pressured but with a chance to strike from six yards out, and he skies it over the ball.

Er … bar.

Updated

45 +1 min: As predicted, five minutes of stoppage time.

GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Canada (Batshuayi 44)

“Against the run of play” is hardly sufficient.

A direct ball, maybe 60 yards in the air straight up the field from Toby Alderweireld, lands at the feet of Michy Batshuayi, whose first touch is a fine finish.

Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi fires home the opening goal.
Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi shoots … Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi fires home the opening goal.
And scores. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
Belgium's Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring their first goal.
Batshuayi celebrates … Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Milan Borjan of Canada reacts after conceding a goal to Michy Batshuayi of Belgium.
Whilst Canada’s keeper Milan Borjan rues conceding. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Updated

42 min: Belgium lofts a ball far ahead … for no one. They’ve been forced to play dump-and-chase like an aging and unskilled ice hockey team.

But you just sense that if they can hold on another few minutes, they can regroup and turn it around.

Given the stoppage time we’ve seen at this Cup, I’d expect no less than five minutes for the VAR checks.

40 min: Hutchinson and Hazard get tangled. That’s a combined 70 years on this planet right there. Foul goes against Hutchinson, rightly so.

39 min: Mark Clattenburg, Fox’s rules analyst, says the defender slowed down just enough to avoid being called here. And the VAR crew agrees. Ah well.

38 min: How is that not a penalty? Witsel bundles over Laryea from behind. He could call the push or the trip. He calls neither.

Again, I’m loathe to criticize referees, but this is a shambles.

Hold up .. VAR is looking!

Canada's Richie Laryea goes to ground after a challenge from Belgium’s Axel Witsel.
Canada's Richie Laryea goes to ground after a challenge from Belgium’s Axel Witsel. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Updated

36 min: Canada slows it down for a bit. Davies then slips through the middle, but the possession goes nowhere.

35 min: Are we in Toronto?

"This is our house!" chant-clap the Canada supporters behind Milan Borjan's goal

— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) November 23, 2022

32 min: Hoilett easily and cleanly wins a battle with Hazard, then pops the ball into the box for David, whose header doesn’t quite trouble anyone.

31 min: Oh, but the youth shows sometimes! Eustáquio creates a chance for David, who easily could’ve sent it to a teammate rushing down the right, but he shoots instead.

Canada has outshot Belgium 11-2.

11-2!

30 min: Johnston gets into the box with the ball. He falls. No call, probably reasonably so. But the ball comes back to him, and his shot stings Courtois’ gloves.

Canada truly deserve a goal here. They’ve taken it to an accomplished team.

28 min: Witsel initiates contact. He falls. He draws the foul. Remember the old NBA “Jordan Rules,” in which Michael Jordan got all the calls? Yeah.

27 min: Davies holds well against several defenders. He lays it over for Hutchinson, who rushes his shot and places it well wide.

25 min: De Bruyne leads the break down the middle this time. Laryea makes slight contact with Hazard, who appears to consider the option of falling but decides against it. Good for him.

But then he drops on minor contact from Johnston. I’m a referee, so I don’t criticize referees, but come on, man.

23 min: The other bad news: Presses can be beaten. A direct ball goes to Hazard, who makes a nifty turn that leaves Johnston in the dust. Miller makes a vital block to concede a corner that comes to nothing … besides a counterattack that makes Courtois race out of the box to cover.

Canada's keeper Milan Borjan and Kamal Miller celebrate Miller’s block.
Canada's keeper Milan Borjan and Kamal Miller celebrate Miller’s block. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Updated

22 min: The Canadian press (on the field, not in the pressbox, where the Canadian Press does a fine job) is a sight to behold. The bad news is that the referee is now calling fouls for breathing on Belgian players.

20 min: Buchanan is becoming a liability because of his propensity for fouling. Maybe a drawback of having played rough-and-tumble college soccer?

19 min: Belgium breaks the press! Here comes De Bruyne! Tielemans is wide open to his right!

And De Bruyne meekly dribbles into the Canadian forest.

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, (right) runs with the ball and is pursued by Canada players.
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, surges forward. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Updated

18 min: Belgium finally gets a minute of possession. It’s in their own half, but at least it’s a period of breaking the pressure. For now – the press forces a ball all the way back to Courtois.

16 min: Roberto Martinez needs to change something, fast. As (ahem) predicted here, the “veteran” Belgian defenders are having a lot of trouble fending off the Canadian speedsters.

15 min: “Attempts at goal”: Belgium 1 (first minute, harmless), Canada 7.

Costa Rica had zero.

13 min: Cross! Not cleared! Shot blocked! Another shot! Offside call!

This is all happening in the Belgian box.

Belgium dominated play for … the first possession of the game. It has been all Canada since then.

The call, on the other hand, wasn’t controversial …

PENALTY

A handball penalty is called against Belgium pic.twitter.com/ijm1n0RUPc

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 23, 2022

PENALTY SAVED!

Canada might have an argument with the referee here. That took forever to set up, and Davies had far too long to think about it. Courtois saves it rather easily. The rebound goes back to Davies but at an awkward angle.

Canada's Alphonso Davies has his penalty saved by Belgium's keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Canada's Alphonso Davies has his penalty saved by Belgium's keeper Thibaut Courtois. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Belgium’s keeper Thibaut Courtois is congratulated by his teammates after saving the penalty taken by Canada’s Alphonso Davies.
Courtois is congratulated by his teammates. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Updated

PENALTY TO CANADA!

That review didn’t take long, and manager Roberto Martinez looks like he’s about to swallow his own face.

Yellow to Carrasco as well.

VAR shows Carrasco had his arm out, and the shot hit his arm. Oh dear …

Tajon Buchanan shot hits the wrist of Belgium's Yannick Carrasco to concede a penalty kick to Canada.
Tajon Buchanan shot hits the wrist of Belgium's Yannick Carrasco to concede a penalty kick to Canada. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Updated

8 min: The corner lands to Buchanan, whose side half-volley deflects upward and is snared by Courtois.

Is there a handball? The ref is looking!

7 min: It’s a promising Canadian cross from Buchanan that earns a corner kick.

Canada has completed 45 of the first 69 passes of this game, the stats say.

5 min: So to sum up so far – one shot each way (Canada’s shot was blocked). And one impetuous foul by Tajon Buchanan. Ah, youth.

2 min: Canada bounces back with a good spell of possession in the attacking third. This is a frenetic start.

1 min: Turnover, Belgian shot from long-range, easily saved.

Kickoff

Referee Janny Sikazwe of Zambia blows the whistle. He has plenty of experience but is also known for blowing the whistle too early in an international game. ““I think God told me to end the match,” he said. (Thanks, CTV, for noting this.)

The players and match officials take to the pitch.
The players and match officials take to the pitch. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Updated

OK, one more …

Richard Hirst writes: “On the assumption you are Canadian, good luck, I’m rooting for you. After all, (most of) The Band, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Paul Peschisolido (yes, I’m a Fulham supporter) - not a bad line up.”

I’m not Canadian. At least, not yet. But I’m a huge Rush fan. And I love Kids in the Hall. And health care. And Sarah McLachlan. And I had a great time covering the Olympics in Whistler … OK, that’s it, I’m moving.

Wait … it’s cold?

Final preliminaries …

Peter Oh says this game is a perfect “brunch menu”: “I don’t have a horse in this race but I like Belgian waffles and maple syrup. Hot coffee is brewing and the sun is out on a crisp, cold morning in Northern California. Life could be worse!”

Ted Storer on CONCACAF: “You know this better than most. CONCACAF always seems to have a team at the World Cup Finals who are just happy to have qualified (El Salvador – 1982, Jamaica -1998, Honduras – every time, Trinidad and Tobago - 2002, Panama - 2018, etc). I am really hoping that Costa Rica is that team for 2022 – having finished fourth in the regional qualifications and defeating New Zealand on a single goal in the Confederation Play-ins. Really, really, really hoping it is not the US – or Mexico – or Canada.”

And one for the stat files: Atiba Hutchinson is rather old.

39-year-old Atiba Hutchinson starts for Canada today.

🇨🇦 He's the 2nd-oldest outfield player in a men's World Cup game (Roger Milla, 42) & the oldest starter.

🇨🇦 Of the 26 on Canada's roster, he's the only one who was alive when Canada's men last played in the WC (1986).

— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 23, 2022

The Canadian anthem was greeted with much enthusiasm. Clearly a lot of Canadian fans there. And the players, along with Herdman, sang loudly. Not on key by any stretch of the imagination, but they gave it a try.

Belgian lineup

This team is apparently pretty good, even without Lukaku.

The Red Devils also have three players who are definitely at the back – Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Leander Dendoncker – while others are kinda sorta defenders.

Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, generational talents in almost any country, are in the attack with Fenerbahce’s Michy Batshuayi.

One note: These guys aren’t young. Players over 30: Courtois (30), Vertonghen (35), Alderweireld (33), Witsel (31), Hazard (31), De Bruyne (31). Good luck dealing with 22-year-olds Davies and David.

The 1️⃣1️⃣ Devils at the #WorldCup’s starting line. 🇧🇪 #SelectedbyPwC #BELCAN #DEVILTIME pic.twitter.com/uzUYslxC1r

— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) November 23, 2022

Canadian lineup

Miller, Vitória and Johnston are the back line in what you could call a 3-4-3 or 5-2-3 or 5-4-3-2-1 or whatever.

Davies plays farther back on the field for Bayern but plays in the attack for Canada along with David and Hoilett.

Hutchinson, the 39-year-old captain, anchors the midfield with Eustáquio.

Cyle Larin, who led CONCACAF qualifying with six goals, is on the bench.

HERE. WE. GO. 🍁#WeCAN pic.twitter.com/51Xit3yFJF

— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) November 23, 2022

The Canadian conductor …

John Herdman’s teams routinely beat the odds.

He led New Zealand’s women to their first World Cup points. (Name-dropping: I was there. I used to do interesting things.)

He led Canada’s women to two Olympic bronze medals, one of which could easily have been silver or gold.

He led Canada’s men to a resounding march through CONCACAF qualifying.

In this case, he’s helped a bit by an upswing in Canadian talent, prodded a bit by people who are starting to take soccer development seriously and intelligently. The Long Term Player Development model stresses development over winning, including a mildly controversial principle of not keeping league standings for players under 12.

John Herdman shows his skills in a training session in Qatar.
John Herdman shows his skills in a training session in Qatar. Photograph: Nathan Denette/AP

Are the Canadians more “American” than the USA?

This roster looks like a US roster of the 1990s and 2000s …

  • Players who played in college (Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston, Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea … plus a couple who played in Canadian colleges)

  • Players who spent most of their childhoods elsewhere but were eligible for Canada (Stephen Eustáquio, Steven Vitória)

  • Players who came to Canada as refugees (Alphonso Davies, Milan Borjan)

Then add several players who came up through MLS academies, including the prodigy Davies, who moved from Vancouver to Bayern Munich in 2018.

Alphonso Davies in action for Bayern Munich.
Alphonso Davies in action for Bayern Munich. Photograph: Heiko Becker/Reuters

Canada’s record: Poor

They’ve only qualified once before, losing all three games in 1986.

In CONCACAF qualifying, they’re typically thrashed by Central American opponents, rarely even making it to the final round.

This time around?

They won the final round.

And that’s after losing two of their last three, having taken their feet off the gas pedals after a torrid run in which they drew away to the mighty Mexico and USA and beat those teams, along with almost everyone else, on home tundra.

Canada 2, Japan 1

Did that get your attention? Hope so.

That was the result last week when Canada faced Japan last week without two of its best players, Alphonso Davies and Stephen Eustáquio.

Yes, that’s the same Japanese team that beat Germany 2-1 today.

It’s not a fluke. Time to explain why …

Canada's Lucas Cavallini celebrates after he scored from a penalty kick against Japan.
Canada's Lucas Cavallini celebrates after he scored from a penalty kick against Japan. Photograph: Christopher Pike/AP

Preamble

The USA drew Wales 1-1 and has shaky chances to advance.

Mexico needed a penalty save to hold Poland to a draw in a group torn asunder by Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina.

Costa Rica just gave up five goals to Spain. No, wait, six. Oops, seven. Is it over? Finally? OK, moving on.

So the hopes of North America rest with … Canada? Against Belgium?

Indeed they do. And a result here would not be the biggest shock of the Cup. And a Canadian presence in the round of 16 is certainly a strong possibility, especially after seeing Croatia and Morocco launch damp squibs in a scoreless draw today.

🇲🇦 0-0 🇭🇷

Looks like less excitement early this morning than yesterday... pic.twitter.com/ZeINGI5JVN

— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 23, 2022

This could be fun. Follow along with me, won’t you?

Contributor

Beau Dure

The GuardianTramp

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