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.

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.

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.

Source: Nicholas Mendola


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