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Belgium survive - barely - to beat electric, industrious Canada

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nicholas Mendola look ahead to Canada's match against Belgium in the 2022 World Cup, and wonders whether the fresh-faced Canadians can defeat the "golden generation" of Belgium.

Canada shocked and stunned Belgium for 88 of 90 minutes but Thibaut Courtois saved a penalty and Toby Alderweireld joined Michy Batshuayi to set up a moment of brilliance in the Red Devils’ 1-0 win to start their World Cup at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday.


Belgium had more of the ball but far less of the threat as Canada used 47 percent possession to rifle off 21 of the game’s 30 shots.

But Batshuayi ran onto Alderweireld’s lid-opening long ball and slotted past Milan Borjan to give Belgium three points and two-point group leads on remaining opponents Croatia and Morocco on Wednesday.

Courtois made three saves including an early penalty on Davies, making 50 touches in Belgium’s win.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Thibaut Courtois leads Belgium in saving Golden Generation... for now

If you thought you’d see a smash-and-grab in Belgium vs Canada, you would’ve expected the Canadians to be the ones doing the smashing and the grabbing at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.

We’ve seen Courtois steal the biggest club games in the world, and the Real Madrid man was the main reason Belgium delivered three points to their World Cup hopes.

This is viewed as a Golden Generation for Belgium and it came extremely close -- like three diving saves close -- to walking away from the tournament opener without a point in a game they were widely expected to use as a fairly easy springboard into the tournament.

Courtois guessed right to stop Davies penalty and the Bayern Munich man sliced the rebound over the bar, and Courtois made another wonderful save late in the game as Canada pushed to finally get their breakthrough.

Belgium didn’t even manage a full expected goal in the win, while the numbers point to nearly three xG for the Canadians.

But... you have to finish. Oh, Canada.

Belgium vs Canada

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 23: Alphonso Davies of Canada penalty against Thibaut Courtois of Belgium during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Canada at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

John Herdman reaction: ‘We’re going to go and (expletive) Croatia’

Canada boss John Herdman wasn’t bashful when asked what he told his players after gathering them at midfield after the final whistle.

The Englishman told the Canadian team that they were as dominant as they felt, and made a vow regarding their second match of the tournament against Croatia.

“I just told them they belong here, and we’re going to go and ‘F’ Croatia next. It’s as simple as it gets,” Herdman said, according to The Athletic. “I’m proud of the performance but you need to take three points in your first game. We had an opportunity tonight to be top of the group, that was the mission, and we missed it. But I’m proud of the performance. These lads showed that they can live on this stage and I think they made the fans proud and made them feel that they belong here.”

Stars of the Show

Belgium vs Canada

Thibaut Courtois

Toby Alderweireld

Stephen Eustaquio

Alistair Johnston

Thibaut Courtois penalty save (video)

Michy Batshuayi goal video: Belgium stings against run of play

How to watch Belgium vs Canada live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday Nov. 23
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Key storylines, players to watch closely

There’s strength in the aforementioned Belgium defense, though, and Belgium will be bringing six centurions to Qatar (Vertonghen, Alderweireled, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku). Thibaut Courtois (97) should reach his 100th cap during the tournament and Kevin De Bruyne could also hit that height with a prolonged Belgium run (94). This is a golden generation and hopes for -- and pressure on -- it will be incredibly high.

Canada is a proud soccer nation that has dramatically-underachieved in World Cup qualifying despite a wealth of talent at home and abroad. The big question is whether John Herdmann’s defense can get the Canadians through a match like this, as goalkeeper Milan Borjan is spectacular but the backs untested at any level near that of Belgium.

Belgium quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 2
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Roberto Martinez
Key players: Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard

Canada quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 41
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF (1st place)
Coach: John Herdman
Key players: Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Milan Borjan, Jonathan Osorio

Follow @NicholasMendola