Belgium equalled the record of eight consecutive men’s World Cup group stage wins with a 1-0 victory over Canada on Wednesday night.
The Red Devils were expected to dominate in Group F and cruise to victory over Canada, but they were made to work extremely hard for the three points which came by virtue of Michy Batshuayi’s first-half goal.
Here’s how the players rated at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium:
Thibaut Courtois – 7 – Courtois was the reason Belgium went into half time ahead, proving unbeatable when Canada did manage to get a shot on goal. When Davies was given the opportunity to open the scoring inside 10 minutes from the penalty spot, Courtois was well-matched to the effort, getting a good hand onto it. Had less to do in the second half but still produced a good save from Larin’s header to preserve the clean sheet.
Leander Dendoncker – 6 – The better of the three Belgium centre-backs in the first half though there wasn’t much of a contest. Was perhaps helped by the fact that Canada focused their attacks on the opposite flank.
Toby Alderweireld – 6 – Defensively, Alderweireld really showed his age with a poor performance in the first half, constantly targeted by the Canadian attack. But it was he who played a beautiful pass over the top for Batshuayi to win the match. As the game went on he improved and his experience showed, but Belgium are playing with fire.
Jan Vertonghen – 5 – Alongside old partner Alderweireld, Vertonghen really struggled against an energetic Canadian attack in the first half. On another day, against a more prolific side, they will have been torn apart. This was more about Canada being wasteful in attack than Belgium’s defence stepping up.
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Timothy Castagne – 6 – Had things slightly easier in the first half even though Canada dominated. Switched over to the left at half-time to try and combat Laryea but couldn’t stop the Canadian.
Axel Witsel – 5 – Was fortunate not to concede a penalty for bringing down Laryea inside the area and was overrun in midfield. Better after half-time, helped by a more composed partner.
Youri Tielemans – 4 – Anonymous in midfield in the first half as Belgium struggled to get a foothold in the game. Taken off at half-time as Martinez looked to have more presence.
Yannick Carrasco – 3 – He may have been slightly unfortunate to be penalised for handball, as it was more due to the position of his hand than any deliberate action, but Carrasco was given a torrid time by Richie Laryea in the first half – which wasn’t helped by the fact that he had been moved. Was put out of his misery at half-time.
Kevin De Bruyne – 4 – Have Belgium brought the right De Bruyne? The Man City midfielder had an uncharacteristically poor game which saw him complete just six passes in the first half and even as Canada’s legs went in the second half, De Bruyne messed up a couple of opportunities with poor passes.
Eden Hazard – 7 – Much better than Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and was the only bright outlet for Belgium during his time on the pitch. It was something of a surprise when he was taken off on the hour mark though Martinez is likely trying to manage minutes for a player that hasn’t been playing too regularly this season. This wasn’t a vintage Hazard performance, but it was good.
Michy Batshuayi – 6 – Not the most frightening of strikers but he was the man for Belgium to rely on, racing onto Alderweireld’s long ball and pulling out a lovely first-time finish on the bounce.
Thomas Meunier (for Carrasco 45) – 6 – Brought on and switched over to the right, where he looked defensively solid for the most parts.
Adamou Onana (for Tielemans 45) – 7 – Helped Belgium wrestle control of the midfield, they looked a completely different side with him on the pitch.
Leandro Trossard (for Hazard 62) – 6 – Added legs to the Belgium attack but like his teammates was lacking with the final product.
Lois Openda (for Batshuayi 78) – 5 – Didn’t make too much of an impact.
Milan Borjan – 6 – Had very little to do and couldn’t really stop Batshuayi’s goal. He’ll have tougher matches at the World Cup.
Alistair Johnston – 6 – Good going forward but was the defensive weak link for Canada. Gave the ball away early on for a Batshuayi chance and was beaten a few times by the likes of De Bruyne and Hazard.
Steven Vitoria – 7 – A solid defensive performance but he was outshone by one of his partners.
Kamal Miller – 8 – Absolutely unreal. As far as World Cup debuts go there won’t be many better than Miller’s. It was as if he had a personal vendetta against Batshuayi, stopping the Belgian striker on two separate occasions with fantastic tackles. He was a rock at the back.
Richie Laryea – 8 – Canada’s best attacking player on the night. Tormented Carrasco and Vertonghen with his dribbling and could’ve won a penalty when he was brought down by Witsel. Whenever Canada got behind the Belgium defence it was with the ball at Laryea’s feet and the only thing missing from him was the end product (which prevents him from getting higher than an 8). He also put in a wonderful tackle on Batshuayi inside his own area when the Belgian striker was shaping to shoot.
Atiba Hutchinson – 7 – The oldest man to start a World Cup game, Atiba certainly didn’t look like someone who will be celebrating his 40th birthday in just a few months’ time. He helped dominate the midfield in the first half, it’s just a shame that Canada’s attack couldn’t make it count.
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Stephen Eustaquio – 8 – Really, really good in the midfield alongside Hutchinson. While his captain sat deeper, Eustaquio was the link between midfield and attack, and he caused Belgium’s defence some problems with two chances created.
Alphonso Davies – 6 – Should have given Canada the lead from the penalty spot but his effort was poor and he faltered in the follow up. But the Bayern man didn’t let that affect his game too much, still causing some problems and tauting Belgium’s defenders.. Really poor and messed up the follow up but didn’t let that affect his confidence. Taunting Belgium at times
Tajon Buchanan – 8 – Tested Courtois with dangerous shot – albeit via a deflection, which resulted in Canada’s penalty. Combined really well with Laryea to give Belgium nightmares and had a good chance to equalise sliding across goal but his effort ballooned over.
Junior Hoilett – 7 – Although he spent a large portion of the game on the periphery, when Hoilett did get on the ball he caused problems. Two of his four completed passes created chances for his teammates and he always seemed to find himself in the right areas for Canada.
Jonathan David – 5 – Didn’t have too many chances in the first half. Started the second with a poor header from Eustaquio’s good cross and wasn’t really the focal point Canada needed, outperformed by his attacking teammates.
Cyle Larin (for Hoilett 58) – 6 – Forced a good save from Courtois with a header but couldn’t make the difference that Canada needed.
Ismael Kone (for Hutchinson 58) – 5 – His arrival coincided with Canada losing control of the midfield battle, unable to pick up from where Hutchinson had left off.
Sam Adekugbe (for Laryea 73) – 5 – Slightly underwhelming compared to the man he replaced, but didn’t get too many opportunities.
Liam Millar (for Buchanan 81) – N/A – A late sub.
Jonathan Osorio (for Eustaquio 81) – N/A – A late sub.