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CONCACAF watch: Despite opening loss to Belgium, Canada show very promising signs

The Reds dazzled at times and were up for the test against an experienced Belgium side, but just couldn’t put the ball in the net.

FBL-WC-2022-MATCH09-BEL-CAN Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

All four CONCACAF squads have played their opening World Cup match. Despite not a single win from any of them (0W, 2D, 2L), you can’t help but be left with a good taste after watching Canada today. Add to this the fact none of them played easy rivals. USA should’ve defeated Wales, but a late mistake made it 1-1. Mexico ended in a scoreless draw with Poland. Costa Rica are the exception from the bunch after their historic 7-0 loss to Spain earlier today, and finally, Canada losing just 1-0 to the hands of Belgium, but deserving so much more.

When you look at what happened today in the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Canada dominated the entire first half and should’ve been ahead by the 10th minute, if not for Courtois’ heroics on the PK, along with some help by Alphonso Davies, who could’ve placed his shot much better to be honest. But the truth is Canada were not messing around and competed man for man against the Belgians.

Canada varied their attacks, either on the flanks or through long balls down the center of the pitch, but were equally effective and really kept the Belgian defensive line on their heels the entire match, especially the first half. They were simply unable to put it away to take the lead. And speaking of long balls, they got a dose of their own medicine when CB Toby Alderweireld sent one of his own to speedy striker Michy Batshuayi, who after some excellent footwork, got in perfect position to fire a shot out of Borjan’s reach without having to actually touch the ball prior to his shot.

The second half wasn’t as explosive by the Canadians, despite the fact they continued to approach Courtois’ goal, but without the same clarity. Surely fatigue started to kick in from the effort exerted in the first 45, as keeping up with a squad like Belgium is no simple task. If one thing can be said it’s how impressive Canada’s players sacrificed to keep Belgium within reach. Toronto FC’s Richie Larya had a sliding tackle to save an open, inside the box shot by Batshuayi. Kamal Miller had a superb sliding tackle that saved a dangerous Belgian counter. Canada’s defense looked sharp on every play, except for the one that ended in the only goal of the match. But that’s all it takes, isn’t it?

Even in the disappointing loss, you can’t help but feel inspired if you’re Canada. Even head coach John Herdman shares the sentiment:

You can obviously notice the excitement in his voice regarding his team’s performance as he knows they were up for the test. Even more so considering you easily could’ve won a match against a top tier side like Belgium. If they were this tough on Belgium, imagine what they can do against a lesser Croatia and Morocco. No knock on those guys, but Canada definitely drew the toughest rival first.

This is how Group F marches along after this result, as well as Croatia and Morocco’s 0-0 tie earlier today, with Belgium in control:

If they fail to make it past the group stages, rest assured Canada will be no easy out. Great matchups ahead for this group with all teams looking very evenly matched today. But one thing is for sure; after their 36-year absence from the World Cup, Canada are for real in this one.