FT - Respect.
Victory eluded #canMNT, but they won the respect of the soccer world after completely bossing No. 2-ranked Belgium.— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) November 23, 2022
90’ +4’ - Squeaky Bum Time.
90’ + 5’ - Of course we don’t get the insanely overlong ET we’ve seen so far in the Tournament. Of course.
89’ - Inside the final 2’. Shaking.
87’ - I don’t even know what to say.
82’ - DOUBLE SUBSTITUTION - CANADA. There it is.
81’ - What. A. Chance.
Oh man. I thought that was it— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
Great header from Cyle Larin after a fantastic ball from Alistair Johnston, but Thibaut Courtois makes it look easy despite the shot heading towards the corner
The #CanMNT is pushing now for that opener
79’ - SUBSTITUTION - BELGIUM Openda for Batshuyi
75’ - SUBSTITUTION - CANADA
69’ - Sorry. haven’t updated in awhile. End to end stuff. Losing my mind over here.
63’ - SUBSTITUTION - BELGIUM. Hazard for Troussard.
59’ - DOUBLE SUBSTITUTION - CANADA.
58’ - Richie Laryea has got under Axel Witsel’s skin. You love to see it.
57’ - Yellow Card issued to Belgium’s Onana for an elbow to Eustaquio’s face.
54’ - Yellow Card issued to Belgium’s Meunier for an errant elbow to Junior Hoilett.
52’ - Chants of “Let’s go, Canada!” reverberate through the stadium. Also, we may be prepping for some subs of our own.
49’ - CHANCE! Some superb play by Eustaquio (a filthy nutmeg on KDB, no less) leads to a weak header from Jonathan David. Need to do better here. Find those finishing boots.
45’ - Huge half begins. Belgium make a double sub. Mostly to accommodate Richie on the right.
HT - Food for thought.
46’ - Tajon misses another chance.
that’s the thing about not burying your chances when you have them against a team like belgium, doesn’t matter how much pressure or possession you’ve had…they just need a moment of brilliance to capitalize— Tej Sahota (@boatical) November 23, 2022
44’ - GOAL! BELGIUM! - Canada lose concentration and suffer the cost. GOTTA FINISH YOUR CHANCES, BOYS.
40’ - LMAO!
People who actually watch soccer and don't just play FIFA. https://t.co/k9BZC9TcqD— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) November 23, 2022
38’ - DREAMLAND. NOW DO A GOAL!
35’ - AND NOW YOU’RE GONNA TO BELIEVE US:
Canada out here inventing swagger. Holy shit, man.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) November 23, 2022
They deserve to be up like 3-0. Canada!
33’ - LOL.
23’ - Kamal Miller saves a goal with one hell of a block.
KAMAL. MILLER.— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) November 23, 2022
What a tackle. Brilliant.
19’ - We are all over Belgium, but need to turn it into a goal BAD. They are starting to find their feet.
15’ - Yuuuuup
PK miss aside, the #CanMNT are ALL over Belgium right now. Dominating them in possession, and are barely letting them breathe on the ball— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
They need to find a way to turn this into a chance, and a goal
11’ - PENALTY SAVED! and my poor poor heart.
Unbelievable. What a save from Thibaut Courtois to save the PK from Alphonso Davies, denying the #CanMNT of their first-ever World Cup goal— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
That's unlucky for Canada, who could've grabbed control of the match
10’ - PENALTY AWARDED TO CANADA! HOLY SHEEEET!
8’ - VAR - Penalty Check. OMG OMG OMG.
Penalty for Canada??? VAR is having a look, as Tajon Buchanan's shot was blocked by what could've been a handball— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
What a moment this would be for the #CanMNT
8’ - CORNER KICK : CANADA - Tajon gets it on the volley but it’s blocked.
3’ - Canada on the front foot. You love to see it.
2’ - Great save from Borjan after Johnson coughs up an errant pass.
1’ - HERE WE GO!
1:54PM - Anthems are underway. Here comes “Oh, Canada!”
1:52PM - OH MY GAWD. I AM BESIDE MYSELF.
1:50PM - Not now, Mikey.
Who wants TFC news????— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) November 23, 2022
1:43PM - So close.
1:24PM - Let. Us. Proceed.
1:22PM - yup, no big deal.
1:07PM - Pinch me. I’m in dreamland.
1:00PM - And so begins the longest hour in human history. Stay frosty out there.
12:53PM - AGR comes in with the heat!
Ooh, a tactical wrinkle from Belgium!— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) November 23, 2022
Potentially could see Axel Witsel slot in at the back, or Belgium is really going with a 4-3-3 to try and limit the #CanMNT's speed
It'll be fascinating to see this play out. They have rarely strayed from their 3-4-2-1 all year long https://t.co/jep4guuXVq
12:53PM - I’m not crying:)
12:50PM - Not at all a big occasion.
12:46PM - LINEUPS ARE OUT!!!!!
Canada's starting XI: Borjan; Johnston, Vitoria, Miller, Laryea; Davies, Eustaquio, Hutchinson, Hoilett, Buchanan; David— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) November 23, 2022
12:43PM - Pride.
It feels like there are *only* Canadians here a little over an hour before kickoff. And it feels like an OHL barn in here, too.— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) November 23, 2022
It’s happening! pic.twitter.com/teCdJ1FgkE
12:36PM - Oh. My. Gawd .
12:30PM - Get your Voyageurs banners here:
Too excited to wait for game time!#CanMNT supporters—here a little treat.— Banner Factory (@BannerFactoryTO) November 23, 2022
It’s our #AlistairJohnston banner that you may spot later in the stands?!? (I mean, if things went as planned.) pic.twitter.com/edohe4Ugho
12:28PM - FAAAAAAR too excited to NOT start this early. So, how about that Spanish Squad?
Match Preview via Andre Schaffner
The long wait is almost over! Canada’s opener for Qatar 2022 on Wednesday, its first World Cup match in 36 years, is anticipated by many as though it were Christmas morning.
The hopes of a nation will ride on the shoulders of veterans Atiba Hutchinson, Milan Borjan and Junior Hoilett along with young stars such as Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan. Missing out, due to unfortunate late injuries, are depth pieces Doneil Henry, Scott Kennedy and Maxime Crepeau.
Davies is expected to be back from a recent hamstring strain, and if healthy will be expected to start. How long he goes after missing nearly two weeks on the sideline remains to be seen but given the importance of the first game in the World Cup group stages he could play substantial minutes. Expect Davies to have a more free-ranging role, especially when Canada has possession. While the CanMNT had success in Davies injury absences during qualifying, Canada is not the same team when Davies is missing.
Belgium will undoubtedly be wary of the threat posed by Davies’ speed and dribbling and he will be expected to draw a crowd of Belgian defenders whenever he is near the ball. However, as seen throughout qualifying, when Davies draws multiple defenders to him there is certain to be extra space and less marking for his attacking teammates.
David will be tasked to lead the line and will look to exploit open seams for teammates to find him in the final third. David’s knack for finding space along with quick acceleration and meticulous timing of his runs may give the Belgian back line some serious challenges throughout the match.
Hoilett’s man of the match performance in Friday’s final tune-up game has likely assured him as starting role in the team’s opener. Hoilett will likely play as a central midfielder lining up just ahead of Hutchinson and Stephen Eustáquio. Also look for Hoilett to interchange positions with Davies as the course of the game dictates.
There has been no meaningful head to head action between Canada and Belgium to reference as they have not played one another in over 33 years... The two nations’ one and only game was a friendly held at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa on 9 June 1989 that was won by the Red Devils 2-0. Notable names for Belgium that day were Marc Degryse, Marc Emmers, and Jan Ceulemans. Canada was led by Craig Forrest, Dale Mitchell and Alex Bunbury.
Belgium, ranked second in the pre-tournament FIFA rankings, after a previous stint at the top for quite some time would appear to strong for Canada, currently ranked 41st. However, in the more current looking Elo ranking system Belgium is ranked fifth whereas Canada closes the gap somewhat at 29th. The perceived gulf between the two nations is there for a reason, but wheras Belgium is seemingly in a slow decline, Canada rise over the past two years has been meteoric.
How did Belgium fare in recent World Cups? Belgium is coming off their best showing at a World Cup when the finished third overall in 2018. In both 2014 and 2018 Belgium swept their groups with perfect 3-0 records during the height of their golden generation period. However, both their groups in 2014 (Algeria, Russia, South Korea) and 2018 (England, Tunisia, Panama) were relatively easier than their current Group F opposition.
Much has been made of Belgium being an aging cast ripe for the picking. The backbone of the team remains veterans like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, all over 30 years old.
However, Manager Roberto Martinez has been introducing quality young players into the mix, such as Youri Tielemans, Zeno DeBast, and Jérémy Doku. It would not be surprising to learn that the 19-year-old right back DeBast was brought in to the Red Devils’ fold by Martinez to deal with Davies speed.
Another player to keep an eye on is young attacking midfielder Charles De Ketelaere. Recently transferred to AC Milan, De Ketelaere could be Belgium’s breakout star of the tournament.
The imposing Thibaut Courtois, among the very best goalkeepers in the world, remains a fixture in the Belgian goal. Courtois’ ability is such that when he is on his game is capable of stealing a match for Belgium.
Belgium’s all-time leading scorers, Romelu Lukaku, has been declared out for the first two games of the round robin. The powerful striker has had injury issues to start the club season and has only managed to play in two games for AC Milan in the past four months.
Can Canada turn some heads and pull off a result?
Jonathan David was more or less asked this question during a recent media availability. David’s answer, “Of course. Any team can beat any team on any given day.” For such optimism to play out there are three games within the game to be contested.
Will Canada’s defence hold?
The best defence in CONCACAF in World Cup qualifying was, surprisingly, Canada’s. They will need to repeat that performance as Belgium’s offence is considerably more talented and dangerous than anyone Canada has faced in CONCACAF. A particular concern is with crossed balls in the box. Aside from Steven Vitoria, aerial prowess is not the forte of the likes of Miller or Johnston. We have seen recent examples of where these players were exposed against Uruguay (Johnston) and Japan (Miller).
The midfield battle
Belgium has possessed one of the most formidable midfields over the last five years, but some components are aging and have not been playing at the lofty heights seen in years past. But Canada will be warned to not sleep on them. Canada has yet to experience a game with this much quality in the middle, although Uruguay was very close.
Manchester City’s slick talisman De Bruyne will especially be a handful for Canada’s midfield. His vision on the field and range of passing ability will need to be blunted. Whoever Herdman selects in the middle cannot afford to switch off for any amount of time with the danger posed by Belgium’s midfield in attack. Canada will need superior performances from captain Atiba Hutchinson and the in-form Stephen Eustáquio in this match.
Will Canada’s speed prove decisive?
Will Canada’s dynamism on the flanks and threat in transition be enough to overwhelm an imposing Belgian defence that tends to play a high line but is notably not be blessed with pace? Look for Canada to attack Belgium’s back line on the counter and exploit this every opportunity that is presented.
Canada’s speed game has to become a factor if they want to produce a positive result. It is unlikely Belgium will take Canada’s pace lightly. Leading up to this match veteran Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel spoke about Canada and stated,
“Canada’s strength is their speed with Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan on offense. I recently played in #UCL against the latter. We have to be careful about the space we leave behind. They are physically very strong”
Herdman will likely line up with a 3-4-1-2 with the ball, but when out of possession left sided players Adekugbe can shift to left back and Davies would fall back to left midfield in a 4-4-2 set-up. It is also likely we see Hoilett drop deeper to flood the middle with five midfielders in a 4-5-1 leaving David to hold the line. The ability to transition from one tactical formation to another has been a strength of the CanMNT under Herdman and will likely hold them in good stead in this game and throughout the tournament.
Kickoff time: 2:00 pm EST
Stadium: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium (Al Rayyan)