Soccer News: Belgium 1-0 Canada: Batshuayi gives nervous Red Devils a win after Davies saves penalty

    Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal as Belgium beat a spirited Canada 1-0 in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.

    Leading the line in Romelu Lukaku’s absence, Batshuayi’s strike in the 44th minute was enough to decide a nervous clash in Group F in favor of the Red Devils.

    Roberto Martínez’ team were grateful to Thibaut Courtois who saved an early penalty from Alphonso Davies as they generally struggled with the nation, ending their 36-year absence from the final.

    However, Belgium extended their group stage winning streak to eight matches, with no team achieving a longer streak in the history of the competition (at the level of Brazil).

    Belgium endured a shaky start against the Canucks, who were awarded penalties when VAR ruled that Yannick Carrasco had saved a Tajon Buchanan shot into the box, but Courtois guessed correctly to prevent Davis’ manual penalty by ducking to the right.

    John Herdman, the first coach to lead the country to the Women’s and Men’s World Championships, saw his team continue to pose a big attacking threat. Alistair Johnston stung Courtois’s palms furiously, while Buchanan and Atiba Hutchinson missed their mark.

    But Belgium snatched the lead on the back of the game shortly before half-time; Batshuayi grabbed a long pass from Toby Alderweireld before shooting past Milan Borjan.

    Despite the advantage in possession, the Belgians still did not pay attention to their game, because after the break they scored only once on target.

    Canada looked to capitalize on the introduction of top scorer Sile Laren, whose header put Courtois into action with 10 minutes left, but they were unable to equalize as their rivals held on for the win by a narrow margin.

    What does it mean? Belgium takes on a vibrant Canada

    Although far from their best running performance, Belgium have advanced to the Group F summit after Croatia’s goalless draw against Morocco earlier.

    Despite the loss, it was a historic day for Canada, who returned to the final after 36 years of absence and, unfortunately, did not break their canard after Davis’ penalty was saved.

    Meanwhile, Captain Hutchinson became the oldest starter in World Cup history at 39 years and 288 days old.

    Batshuayi gains momentum

    With Lukaku’s return date unknown, Batshuayi went all out, scoring his 27th international goal in 49 caps, pushing him up to sixth place along with Joseph Mermans on his country’s list of top players.

    The Fenerbahçe striker’s lucky shot came after one of five shots on goal – only Canadian Jonathan David (six) improved that score that evening.

    History of Courtois

    No player has made more major appearances for Belgium than Courtois (23, tied with Jan Seulemans).

    The Real Madrid goalkeeper also came close to becoming the Red Devils’ seventh centurion by earning his 98th cap, and he celebrated the achievement with a draw as well as a superb reaction to knock Davis off the spot.

    Key facts about Opta

    – Since the beginning of the 2014 World Cup, Belgium has won 11 out of 13 matches in the tournament, more than any other country during this period.
    – Canada has lost all four World Cup matches without scoring a single goal. This is the most games in which no country has scored a single goal in the competition, while only El Salvador (six) has played more matches in the final without ever avoiding defeat.
    – By the 32nd minute of that match, Canada had landed 12 shots, their most in a single World Cup match, surpassing their 11 shots against the USSR in 1986. They ended up with 22 shots against Belgium.
    Batshuayi scored his second World Cup goal, also against Tunisia in 2018. Batshuayi has been directly involved in 23 goals in 25 appearances for Belgium in all competitions (18 goals, 5 assists).
    – Courtois became the first Belgian goalkeeper to save a World Cup penalty since Opta had this record (since 1966), making him the seventh goalkeeper the Red Devils faced during this period (excluding shootouts).

    What’s next?

    Both teams returned to Group F on Sunday. Belgium will look to improve their game against Morocco while Canada cannot afford another loss to 2018 finalists Croatia.

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