Belgium 3-1 Canada: What’s your prediction?
Belgium's aging "Golden Generation" will begin their final shot at World Cup glory against Canada on Wednesday, but do so without talismanic forward Romelu Lukaku, who has been central to their success in recent years.
The Group F game at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan is a tricky opener for Roberto Martinez's side against opponents appearing at a first global finals for 36 years who will be fired up to spring a surprise.
Canada are relishing their return to the big stage, with their only previous World Cup appearance in Mexico in 1986, when they lost all three games without scoring a goal.
Belgium would have all the pressure on them to ease past a 41-ranked Canada but would have to be wary of the quick transitions that the Les Rouges savour to hurt oppositions.
Canada are tactically flexible and are dangerous on the counter with the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David playing up-front, while having box-to-box midfielders working hard in the middle of the park.
The onus would be upon Belgium to take the initiative to break down Canada as the Red Devils are likely to see the lion's share of possession owing to the quality they have and the style they prefer under Martinez.
Goals are expect to galore as both sides are attacking-minded but Belgium due to the sheer quality they have in specific positions is expected to come away with flying colours in their opener.
24th November, 01:00 am, Bangladesh time
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar
Prediction: Belgium 3-1 Canada
Belgium: (3-4-1-2) Courtois (GK), Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Debast, Castagne, Witsel, Tielemans, E.Hazard, De Bruyne, Batshuayi
Canada: (3-4-3) Borjan (GK), Miller, Vitoria, Johnston, Adekugbe, Eustaquio, Piette, Laryea, Davies, David, Larin
Following is a statbox on Belgium .
FIFA Ranking: 2
Belgium have qualified for eight of the last 10 World Cup tournaments, missing out in 2006 and 2010, and were one of four European nations at the very first in Uruguay in 1930. Their best finish is a bronze medal in 2018 when they beat England to third, while their only other semi-final appearance was in Mexico in 1986 when they lost to Diego Maradona's Argentina and finished fourth. They have been to 13 World Cups in all.
How they qualified:
They went unbeaten in their eight qualifiers, winning six of them, and had little trouble topping a group that also contained Wales, Czech Republic, Estonia and Belarus. They scored 25 goals, more than three per game, and conceded six with a haul of 20 points that was five more than the second-placed Welsh. They dropped points only in Cardiff and Prague.
Home and away losses to Netherlands, including a 4-1 defeat in Brussels, made for a disappointing recent Nations League campaign, but Belgium have proved they have goals in them. Their 1-0 defeat in Amsterdam was the first time in 50 matches they had failed to score, dating back to a loss by the same margin to France at the 2018 World Cup. Keeping clean sheets has been a issue against more fancied teams and that could be an Achilles heel later in the tournament in Qatar. Since the start of October 2021, Belgium have won five of their 12 internationals, losing four and with three draws. The highlight was a 6-1 home win over Poland in June.
Following is a statbox on Canada .
FIFA Ranking: 41
Canada have appeared in only one World Cup, in 1986, having failed to qualify for other editions of the tournament. They lost their group stage matches against France, Hungary and the Soviet Union and failed to score a goal.
How they qualified
After a 36-year drought, Canada reached the World Cup for the second time with an emphatic 4-0 win over Jamaica on a frigid March afternoon in Toronto. They were the first CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) country to book a spot in the 2022 finals.
After securing qualification, Canada were embroiled in a labour dispute with the national governing body. Players boycotted a friendly against Panama in June in Vancouver over a disagreement about World Cup prize money, among other issues. Their friendly against Panama was scheduled to replace one with Iran, which was called off by Canada Soccer over widespread opposition from politicians and the families of the Canadians who died aboard a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down near Tehran in January 2020 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.