For the second time since 1986, Canada is taking part in a soccer World Cup - and even after four games it is still waiting for the first goal on the world stage. There is even a penalty against Belgium. Alphonso Davies, however, becomes a tragic hero - because the eternal secret favorite strikes ice cold.
The eternal secret favorite Belgium started their World Cup mission with a very flattering victory. The aging golden generation of the Red Devils defeated the passionate underdog from Canada around Bayern star Alphonso Davies 1-0 (1-0) and also benefited from controversial referee decisions.
Davies (10') failed with a hand penalty from Belgium's strong goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and missed Canada's remarkable tournament comeback after 36 years the chance of the historic first World Cup goal for the North Americans. Then ex-BVB striker Michy Batshuayi (44th) scored for the 2018 World Cup third.
After surviving a muscle fiber tear, Davies made it into the Canadian starting eleven. "He's reached his top speed, he's ready," said national coach John Herdman the day before about his star on the left wing - and the 22-year-old caused quite a stir.
Belgium, meanwhile, had to do without their ailing top striker Romelu Lukaku, who will probably only be fit for the third group game against Croatia at the earliest. Former Bundesliga professional Batshuayi started in the center of the attack for the Inter striker. The Bundesliga pros Thomas Meunier, Thorgan Hazard (both Borussia Dortmund) and keeper Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg) initially took a seat on the Belgian bench.
After the first Batshuayi warning shot, which Canada's goalkeeper Milan Borjan (1st) parried, the underdog from North America played cheekily. In front of 40,432 spectators at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Belgium rarely got out of their own half at first, the aging defense struggling with the high pace. And the Canadians' tireless running work paid off almost early. After handball by Yannick Carrasco and video evidence, referee Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) correctly awarded a penalty. Davies immediately grabbed the ball, but shot too weak and unplaced to overcome penalty-killer Courtois.
Canada kept going, much to the delight of the traveling supporters, who loudly celebrated the power play and applauded each successful move. But a long ball from the back gave Belgium the lead just before half-time as Batshuayi slipped past the struggling Canadian defense and fired a cold left in front of goal. The Canadians lacked this efficiency. In the second round, the forces also visibly dwindled, the game forward became less precise. The Belgians remained inconspicuous and primarily waited for counterattacks.