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

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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's 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 set 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 Morroco 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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Belgium survives 

The team wasn't great but they took their chance via Batshuayi while Courtois also saved one. Canada weren't able to put any of their 20+ shots into the back of the net continuing Concacaf's woes at the World Cup so far. Concacaf and CAF are the only federations yet to pick up a win at the World Cup but that could change with Ghana ad Cameroon in action on Thursday. 

November 23, 2022, 9:02 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 4:02 pm EST
 
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That corner kick was something...

A good summation of Canada's day as it sailed over everyone and out of play. They've had chances but you have to make them count here.

November 23, 2022, 8:52 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:52 pm EST
 
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Larin has been a menace

He won another header for Canada but wasn't able to test Courtois with that one. Four minutes remain.

November 23, 2022, 8:48 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:48 pm EST
 
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Double change for Canada

Liam Millar and Jonathan Osorio have entered for Tajon Buchanan and Stephen Eustaquio. Both players have put in impressive shifts but it hasn't been enough so far to make a difference.

November 23, 2022, 8:43 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:43 pm EST
 
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Big big chance

Larin thought he had a goal but Courtois feels unbeatable in net for Belgium.

November 23, 2022, 8:41 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:41 pm EST
 
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Fatigue is setting in

Canada are misplacing passes while Belgium are settling into a shell to conserve energy. If Canada doesn't get a goal soon, the Red Devils may pass this match to completion.

November 23, 2022, 8:35 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:35 pm EST
 
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Generational changes

November 23, 2022, 8:32 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:32 pm EST
 
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Canada are shooting but they aren't taking great shots

With an xG of 2.35, they've created plenty of chances but most of that is from a penalty miss as they've only had three shots on target. Concacaf's leading scorer from World Cup Qualifying -- Cyle Larin -- is now on the pitch so maybe that will help.

November 23, 2022, 8:29 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:29 pm EST
 
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What a shift from Atiba Hutchinson 

39 years young, he has been replaced by Kone to inject energy into the Canada midfield. 30 minutes plus stoppage time remain in what has been an exciting game so far. 

November 23, 2022, 8:23 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:23 pm EST
 
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Uh...

It only took a second and both of Belgium's halftime changes are now on yellow cards. The final 35 mintues will be a test as Larin and Kone are getting ready for Canada.

November 23, 2022, 8:18 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:18 pm EST
 
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Halftime changes for Belgium 

After a nightmare first half, Yannick Carrasco has been withdrawn for Thomas Meunier while Youri Tielemans has also been taken out for Amadou Onana providing more of a defensive presence.

November 23, 2022, 8:09 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 3:09 pm EST
 
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What a half

At the highest level, one missed tackle can be the difference between winning and losing and that's just where Canada are at half. They have been the better team early on and could've been awarded more penalties on another day but a miss by Alphonso Davies has been the difference. It's odd that John Herdman looked to a player who has only taken two penalties in their senior career in such a big moment but with how Canada has played, Herdman's other decisions have been spot on. 

The game is certainly there for the taking but with appropriate tweaks, Belgium can take control in the second half.

November 23, 2022, 7:58 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:58 pm EST
 
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There's Belgium, over the top and Michy Batshuayi nails it

Can't let a team like Belgium hang around too long. Batshuayi scores beating Miller as Canada are quickly learning that it is a game of fine margins.

November 23, 2022, 7:46 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:46 pm EST
 
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Laryea wants another penalty

It looks close as there is contact and the fans are chanting for a VAR review which they will get but the penalty isn't given.

November 23, 2022, 7:41 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:41 pm EST
 
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Johnston with a rocket

Courtois is forced into his second save of the match but Canada have taken an astounding 11 shots. Averaging a chance about every three mintues, Belgium can't breathe which is an issue when almost the entire team is over 30.

November 23, 2022, 7:32 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:32 pm EST
 
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Where's Eden Hazard?

Belgium's captain isn't delivering early in the match. In quite a few chances to shoot, Hazard has taken too many touches allowing Canada to settle their defense. There are goals to be had on the break but Belgium's current front three aren't getting it done.

November 23, 2022, 7:30 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:30 pm EST
 
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Corner to Belgium

It's astounding that they didn't score but last ditch defending from Miller was able to steer Batshiayi's chance over the bar for a harmless corner kick.  

November 23, 2022, 7:25 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:25 pm EST
 
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It has been a while since a Belgian keeper has saved a penalty at the World Cup

Thibaut Courtois became the first to save one since 1966 for the Red Devils in the World Cup and has now become the second keeper to register a penalty save in this World Cup in Qatar. The other was Memo Ochoa for Mexico against Poland on Nov. 22.

November 23, 2022, 7:23 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:23 pm EST
 
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DeBruyne on the break but can't find the pass

Uncharacteristically he misses an open Tielemans but Belgium were able to put together their first real attack 20 minutes into the match.

November 23, 2022, 7:20 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:20 pm EST
 
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Rewinding to the pen take

November 23, 2022, 7:16 PM
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Oh no Alphonso Davies

After a lengthy wait before taking the penalty, Davies has a poor attempt and Courtois is there to save it. A moment to forget for Canada but they have to have short memories here.

November 23, 2022, 7:12 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:12 pm EST
 
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We've got a VAR review, Penalty!

After the corner, it went to a review and Carrasco has another brutal moment conceding a handball and earning a yellow card.

November 23, 2022, 7:10 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:10 pm EST
 
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Canada are still on the front foot

Winning their first corner of the game seven minutes in after Lareya dispossessed Carrasco, It was a good delivery but Courtois is ready. Belgium needs to hold possession if they want to settle things down.

November 23, 2022, 7:09 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:09 pm EST
 
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Canada are coming out of the blocks quickly 

You can tell that they have waited a while for this moment and are putting Belgium under pressure early. John Herdman has his team ready to play.

November 23, 2022, 7:03 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 2:03 pm EST
 
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Five minutes until first kick

Coming off of Spain's 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica, Canada will need to put on a good showing for Concacaf.

November 23, 2022, 6:55 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:55 pm EST
 
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Belgium's second-best attacker may be appearing from the bench

Recovered from a knock, Leandro Trossard could be a game-changing option for the Red Devils. He has seven goals and two assists for Brighton in the Premier League while playing as a forward or wing back. If things aren't in control late, Canada could be on notice.

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Leandro Trossard shot map twenty3
November 23, 2022, 6:47 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:47 pm EST
 
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Atiba Hutchinson, aging like a fine wine

The heart and soul of Canada Soccer, with his start today Hutchinson has become the second oldest male outfield player in World Cup history at 39y 288d. He only trails Cameroonian forward Roger Milla who appeared in the 1994 World Cup at 42y 39d. Milla is also the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history at 38, a record that Hutchinson could break in midfield for Canada today.

Hutchinson playing in this match is remarkable as he only has 70 mintues for Besiktas in the Turkish Cup this season but with 98 caps for Canada, there is no more important player for John Herdman. Flitting between central midfield and center back for Canada, Hutchison will be everywhere against Belgium.

November 23, 2022, 6:30 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:30 pm EST
 
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Not many surprises from Belgium

This defense has aged quickly but the attack will miss Romelu Lukaku. Can Batshuayi carry the load?

Starters: Courtois, Dendoncker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne, Witsel, Tielemans, Carrasco, De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Batshuayi

Reserves: Mignolet, Casteels, Theate, Faes, Mertens, Meunier, Thorgan Hazard, Trossard, Onana, Vanaken, De Ketelare, Openida, Doku, Debast

November 23, 2022, 6:20 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:20 pm EST
 
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Canada's lineup is in 

A big boost as Estaquio is fit to start as he's in the middle of a breakout season while Cyle Larin will begin the game on the bench to make way for Junior Hoilett's set piece delivery. 

Starters: Hutchinson, Borjan, Johnston, Miller, Vitoria, Eustaquio, Hoilett, Buchanan, Davies, David, Laryea

Reserves: Adekugbe, Cavallini, Cornelius, Fraser, Kaye, Kone, Larin, Millar, Osorio, Pantemis, Piette, St. Clair, Ugbo, Waterman, Wotherspoon

November 23, 2022, 6:10 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:10 pm EST
 
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Belgium storylines

As always, Belgium are loaded in attack and have questions at the back. Viewed as a dark horse since the 2014 World Cup, this feels like the last chance for them to really win this thing with a closing window. Kevin De Bruyne is the guy in attack to watch with Romelu Lukaku sidelined for the first two games. And if Eden Hazard can find his form, it's just an added bonus for one of the most talented attacks at the tournament. 

November 23, 2022, 6:00 PM
Nov. 23, 2022, 1:00 pm EST
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