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Canada vs. Belgium key facts

  • Score: Canada 0 - Belgium 1
  • Where: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Ar-Rayyan
  • Time: Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 2:00 p.m. EST
  • Official: Janny Sikazwe (Zambia)
  • Rankings: Canada (41), Belgium (2)
  • How to watch: TSN and CTV

Canada's Richie Laryea in action after sustaining an injury as Belgium players react in Group F match at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Qatar, Nov. 23, 2022.MOLLY DARLINGTON/Reuters

5:50 p.m. EST

Canada’s defeat was no soft surrender. The better team lost

Canada's head coach John Herdman gestures to the fans at the end of the World Cup Group F soccer match between Belgium and Canada on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press

Belgium beat Canada 1-0 in their first World Cup appearance in 36 years. But what a loss. It wasn’t some soft surrender. The Canadians put in a come-out-swinging-and-go-down-the-same-way sort of effort.

Belgium is the No. 2-ranked team in the world. Canada has not played a side like that in nearly twenty years. However, for huge swaths of Wednesday’s game, Canada made the middle-aged football idols on the Belgian team look geriatric. One can say without fear of sounding sour that the better team lost.

Next up for Canada – a match against Croatia on Sunday. Croatia feels a lot like Belgium – getting up there, slowing down, hoping to reputation opponents into submission. It didn’t work against Morocco, and it won’t work against Canada.

After the first go around, and as wild as this sounds, it’s beginning to feel like the most can’t-miss game of this group is Canada vs. Morocco.

That’s the power of the World Cup. A national team can develop slowly or steadily or in great spurts in its own backyard. They can do all kinds of remarkable things that get them headlines back home.

Read columnist Cathal Kelly’s full take on Canada’s group stage opener

4 p.m. ET

Canada falls short in long-awaited World Cup return

Beaten but unbowed, Canada can hold its head up high after losing its first match at the men’s World Cup in 36 years, falling 1-0 to Belgium in both teams’ Group F opener. Michy Batshuayi, a former teammate of Canadian captain Atiba Hutchinson at Besiktas of Turkey, scored the only goal of the game in the 44th minute.

The goal aside, Canada largely bossed the game, driving much of the play and out-chancing the world’s second-ranked team by 21 to nine. Both teams had three shot on target. Of course, the wait for the first goal by a Canadian man goes on, with the drought now reaching four games and counting. Canadian superstar Alphonso Davies had the best chance to end that run of profligacy, but his 11th-minute penalty was easily saved by Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Cyle Larin, the country’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 25, also came close in the second half, but his looping header was saved by Courtois.

The road ahead doesn’t get any easier either. Croatia is up next, with the 2018 runners-up opening its 2022 account with a 0-0 draw with Morocco earlier on Wednesday.

– Paul Attfield

3:56 p.m. EST

Game over

Belgium wins 1-0, as Canada must wait another game for their first goal in a World Cup. The loss puts them at the bottom of Group F, behind Morocco and Croatia who drew, picking up a point each. They next play Croatia on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 11 a.m. EST.

– James Griffiths

3:46 p.m. EST

Canada picks up two yellow cards with 10 minutes remaining

Referee Janny Sikazwe shows a yellow card to Alistair Johnston of Canada during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Canada on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.Julian Finney/Getty Images

With Canada still needing a goal to draw level with Belgium in its opening game with 10 minutes remaining, manager John Herdman has brought on Toronto FC cult hero Jonathan Osorio, who had played just 19 minutes for TFC in the final six weeks of the season due to postconcussion syndrome.

Osorio of course, is no stranger to scoring big goals, and needs little introduction to fans of either TFC or the Canadian men’s national team. Most notably, he scored against Mexico at Azteca Stadium in October last year, becoming the first Canadian to score at the famed facility since 1980.

Osorio, who has seven goals for Canada, replaces Stephen Eustaquio, while Liam Miller – who has yet to score for Canada - is on in place of Tajon Buchanan, as Canada seeks to earn at least a point in its opening World Cup match.

Alphonso Davies picked up Canada’s first booking of the 2022 World Cup too, earning a yellow card for throwing a forearm into Leandro Trossard, while Alistair Johnston picked up another one minute later.

– Paul Attfield

3:35 p.m. EST

Canada in lead for shots, but Belgium dominates the score

You have to wonder if the pressure to finally break through at the men’s World Cup isn’t getting to the Canadian players. A place in history awaits the first man to hit the back of the opposition net wearing the maple leaf, but with 15 minutes of regulation remaining, Alphonso Davies and Co. seem to have left their shooting boots back in the hotel.

Canada has absolutely dominated in terms of chance creation, but of its 18 shots, just two have forced Thibaut Courtois into action in the Belgian goal. Meanwhile, the world’s second-ranked team have generated just five chances, but two have been on target, with the most important, of course, being the 44th-minute shot from Michy Batshuayi that has Belgium in position to take all three points in this Group F game.

– Paul Attfield

3:22 p.m. EST

Herdman brings in Larin for Hoilett, Kone for Hutchinson

With his team trailing 1-0 at the hour mark, Canada head coach has opted to make his first changes, with record goal-scorer Cyle Larin coming on for Junior Hoilett and Ismael Kone coming on for captain Atiba Hutchinson.

With Canada currently chasing the game, and facing the prospect of sitting bottom of Group F if the score remains the same, it seems a no-brainer to bring on Larin, who has 25 goals in the colours of Canada. Given the struggles of Jonathan David so far, where the first-choice striker has yet to direct any of his six attempted shots on target, having a secondary outlet in the striking department seems a sensible choice.

For CF Montreal midfielder Kone, his first World Cup appearance is the latest milestone in a meteoric rise for the 20-year-old. He scored his first goal for Canada this month in just his sixth appearance for Canada, and now has his name being linked with a move to Europe at some point in the near future.

– Paul Attfield

3:05 p.m. EST

Second half underway

Canada and Belgium are back in action at the Ahmad Bin Ali stadium in Qatar, with Canada hoping to match the intensity of the first half — but with greater reward this time around.

– James Griffiths

2:45 p.m. EST

Canada handed cruel lesson in World Cup return

Canada's goalkeeper Milan Borjan fails to save a shot during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Belgium and Canada on November 23, 2022.JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

As lessons go, the first 45 minutes against Belgium handed Canada the cruelest of World Cup crash courses as the fine margins of men’s international football were put on display to everyone watching across the nation, just minutes away from the halftime interval.

A long, hopeful ball from Toby Alderweireld on 44 minutes was enough to induce panic and confusion along the Canadian backline. Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi kept a cooler head, however, darting between Steven Vitoria and Richie Laryea to sweep the ball beyond a powerless Milan Borjan to give the world’s second-ranked team the lead heading to the dressing rooms. In its return to the men’s World Cup after a long 36 years away, one could argue that Canada deserved so much more. Certainly its positive play painted a positive picture of the state of soccer in this country, as John Herdman’s team carried the play for much of the opening 45 minutes, generating nine shots to Belgium’s three.

The best of those chances was the penalty awarded to Canada just nine minutes in. Following a video review, the referee pointed to the spot after Tajon Buchanan’s shot had hit the outstretched arm of Yannick Carrasco. But Davies, who doesn’t normally take penalties for his club team, Bayern Munich, was unable to place his shot wide of Thibaut Courtois, and the Real Madrid goalkeeper got down to his right to save.

Much of the halftime talk on TSN surrounded whether Jonathan David, who takes penalties for his club side Lille, for whom he has nine goals in 15 appearances this season – as well as 22 goals for Canada – should have been handed the responsibility instead.

But if there is a silver lining to be found, it may well be in the fact that through 32 minutes, Canada had generated 12 attempts, more than it had in any game in 1986, its first appearance in the men’s World Cup.

– Paul Attfield

2:44 p.m. EST

Belgium scores first goal of the game

Striker Michy Batshuayi scored for Belgium on the stroke of halftime as they took a 1-0 lead into the break against unlucky Canada in their World Cup Group F game at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday.

– Reuters

2:40 p.m. EST

Canada more than holding its own, Belgium looks nervy

Atiba Hutchinson of Canada shoots the ball against Jan Vertonghen of Belgium during the Group F match between Belgium and Canada at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 23, 2022.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Half an hour into Canada’s first game at the men’s World Cup in 36 years, and John Herdman’s team is anything but overawed by the scale of the occasion. In addition to winning a penalty inside the first 10 minutes, that Alphonso Davies was unable to convert, Canada has generated eight shots – three of which forced Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a save – with another five getting blocked.

Meanwhile Belgium, the world’s second-ranked team, has looked nervy and out of sorts, just as it did last Friday in a 2-1 exhibition loss to Egypt in its final World Cup warmup game. The Red Devils have forced Milan Borjan into just one save, which came inside the first minute.

While Canada has to be continually aware of the threats that the Belgians pose, Herdman’s team has so far mitigated any threat posed by the European team, with Kamal Miller coming up big with a huge block in the 23rd minute, denying Michy Batshuayi what looked a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

– Paul Attfield

2:18 p.m. EST

Alphonso Davies’ penalty kick misses shot at first goal

Alphonso Davies had the perfect chance to make history as the first Canadian man to score a goal at the World Cup, but was unable to beat Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois from the penalty spot.

Just nine minutes in, Canada was awarded a penalty kick following video review after a shot from Tajon Buchanan struck Belgian defender Yannick Carrasco on the arm. But Davies’s shot was too close to Courtois, allowing the Real Madrid goalkeeper to comfortably save to his right, and Belgium managed to clear the rebound without incident.

The miss was the only blemish on an otherwise bright opening 15 minutes for Canada, which got onto the front foot to attack Belgium, the world’s second-ranked team.

– Paul Attfield

2:00 p.m. EST

Which Canadian player will step up and make history?

With Cyle Larin, the Canadian men’s national team’s leading scorer with 25 goals, starting on the bench Wednesday, Jonathan David gets the assignment to spearhead Canada’s attack against Belgium.

David, hot on Larin’s heels with 22 goals for his country, has been in good form at club level for Lille in France’s Ligue 1, with his nine goals this season good for fourth in the French scoring race, just back of Paris St-Germain duo, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

But everyone on this Canadian team is excited at the prospect of becoming the first player from this country to score in a men’s World Cup match. In the team’s only other appearance, in Mexico 86, the team went scoreless in three round-robin defeats to France, Hungary and the USSR.

This team certainly found its scoring touch during the qualifiers, finding the net 54 times over the 20 games it took to reach Qatar, so Canada knows where the net is. It’s just a question of beating Thibaut Courtois, arguably the world’s best goalkeeper, to find it.

– Paul Attfield

1:15 p.m. EST

Crowd goes wild as the Canadian team arrives on the pitch for warm-up

Canada fans cheer as the team arrives on the field to warm up ahead of Group F World Cup soccer action against Belgium at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

We’re about 45 minutes from kick-off here at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, and the Canadian team have just run out onto the pitch to start warm-ups.

Their entrance was greeted by huge cheers and chants of “Ooh-ah-Canada” from the Canadian supporters, a huge crowd of whom — clad in red and white — are located behind one of the goals. The stadium is still mostly empty but gradually filling up. At a previous 10 p.m. kick off here, few Qataris seemed to be present, perhaps because these late starts — while convenient for fans in North America and Europe — mean games end past midnight local time.

– James Griffiths

1:05 p.m. EST

Canada will be in the next World Cup, but this one is special because they really earned it, fans say in Doha

At an official pre-match party put on by Canada Soccer in downtown Doha, multiple fans said that even though the team is guaranteed to be in the next World Cup — as Canada is hosting the tournament, alongside the U.S. and Mexico — it felt more important to be at this one, where Canada earned their place through a stunning qualification run. ”We actually qualified for this one, this was not ‘hey you’re hosting,’ we actually got here on merit,” said Martin Hugh, from Ontario.

Steve Peltier, who has travelled to Doha with his family, said “our daughters are big football fans, we thought this was a once in a lifetime experience, and a way to get ready for four years from now in Canada.” His daughter Audrey said that “we actually made it to this World Cup, we’re not getting in because we hosted it, so for a lot of us it feels more important than the next one.”

The Peltier family from left to right: Audrey, Steve, Clarine and Caitlyn have said they felt they had to come to Canada’s first World Cup in 36 years in Doha, Qatar on November 23, 2022.James Griffiths/The Globe and Mail

Read Samantha Edwards’s feature on the Canadian soccer superfans who trekked to Qatar

– James Griffiths

1:00 p.m. EST

Canada aims to keep World Cup upsets flowing

After Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina and Japan’s win over Germany by the same score, Canada will be hoping to make it a hat trick of World Cup upsets when it kicks off against Belgium, the world’s second-ranked team, this afternoon.

It’s not going to be easy.

Having brushed away the cobwebs of history that have built up in the 36 years since the Maple Leaf was last flown at a men’s World Cup, John Herdman’s team is faced with a daunting prospect in the shape of the Red Devils of Belgium, who finished third in Russia four years ago.

European superstars such as midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will expect to leave their mark on this World Cup, although Canada has caught a break with Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku – Belgium’s all-time leading scorer, with 68 goals – missing this game because of injury.

With games against Croatia and Morocco to come in the group stage, gaining at least a point here – arguably the toughest test of the three – would go a long way to boost Canada’s hopes of finishing in the top two and qualifying for the last 16. And after the goalless match between Croatia and Morocco this morning, a draw here would keep Canada very much in the mix.

But defeat – as long as it’s not a morale-sapping rout – is far from terminal in World Cup curtain-raisers. Spain opened its 2010 tournament campaign with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland before going on to earn its first World Cup, while this year’s Argentina squad will be hoping to at least emulate the country’s 1990 edition, which rebounded from an opening upset against Cameroon to reach the final.

– Paul Attfield

12:55 p.m. EST

Canada announces starting lineup with Alphonso Davies, Atiba Hutchinson

Canada has announced its starting lineup:

  • Atiba Hutchinson (13)
  • Milan Borjan (18)
  • Alistair Johnston (2)
  • Kamal Miller (5)
  • Steven Vitória (5)
  • Junior Hoilett (10)
  • Tajon Buchanan (11)
  • Alphonso Davies (19)
  • Jonathan David (20)
  • Richie Laryea (22)

12:30 p.m. EST

Canadians get the party started in Doha

Fans gather for an official pre-match party at Canada Soccer House in downtown Doha, Qatar on November 23, 2022.James Griffiths/The Globe and Mail

Scores of Canadians gathered Wednesday evening at Canada Soccer House for an official pre-match party. The event was held at the Hilton Hotel, one of only a handful of venues around Qatar where fans can buy alcohol, and with seven drink tickets each in hand, the Canadians were taking full advantage of the occasion.

Friends Todd Kerry, Martin Hugh and Dan Cope from Ontario said they have tickets for all three of Canada’s group games, with the option of changing their flights home if the team makes it beyond that. ”I made a pledge to myself as a kid that if Canada ever made it to the World Cup I’d go, because it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cope.

Friends Todd Kerry, Martin Hugh and Dan Cope from Ontario said they have tickets for all three of Canada’s World Cup group games in Doha, Qatar on November 23, 2022.James Griffiths/The Globe and Mail

Like many fans in Qatar, they were disappointed by the last-minute decision to ban alcohol sales at stadiums, but Kerry said that “just means you need to plan your day a bit more” to give time to go to bars or fan zones. ”Ultimately. though. we’re here to watch football and that comes first,” he added.

– James Griffiths

12 p.m. EST

Alphonso Davies fully fit to start in World Cup opener

Canada winger Alphonso Davies is fully fit and on track to start his country’s World Cup opener against Belgium after recovering from a strained right hamstring. “Canada are in a position now where we can field our strongest team,” coach John Herdman said Tuesday. “It’s exciting times for us. Now the dark clouds have shifted.”

Herdman began coaching the Canadian men’s soccer team in 2018, with the goal of helping it qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The team did more than simply qualify, going on a 20-match tear over 12 months, including a 17-game unbeaten streak.

Read Simon Houpt’s feature on how Herdman took Canada’s men’s team to new heights.

– The Canadian Press

11:30 a.m. EST

Where does Canada stand in the men’s FIFA world rankings?

Canada moved up two places to No. 41 in the final FIFA rankings before the World Cup. The Canadian men, who topped the final round of qualifying in CONCACAF, are the fourth-ranked team in the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, behind No. 13 Mexico, the 16th-ranked Americans and No. 31 Costa Rica.

FIFA’s top five rankings are unchanged, with Brazil widening its lead over No. 2 Belgium, Canada’s first opponent at the World Cup. Argentina is third, followed by France and England.

Canada is competing in Group F, which also consists of Belgium, Croatia and Morocco. Croatia lost to France in the final of the last World Cup and is currently ranked No. 12. Morocco is going into the event as No. 22.

You can find the full World Cup bracket here, complete with a few helpful hints on how to fill it out.

Make your tournament predictions here.

– Mathilde Augustin

11 a.m. EST

When is Canada’s first World Cup match and how do I watch it?

Canada’s first game of the World Cup is happening Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 10 p.m. in Doha (2 p.m. EST). The Canadian squad will be up against second-ranked Belgium. Canada will play two other games in the group stage: against Croatia on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 11 a.m. EST and against Morocco on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. EST.

The matches will be broadcast on TSN and CTV, and French-language coverage will be available on RDS.