Belgian star baffled by World Cup award
Playmaker Kevin de Bruyne gave an honest assessment of his struggles as Belgium edged a 1-0 win against Canada in their opening World Cup game in Qatar.
Making a first appearance at the tournament in 36 years, the Canadians were much the brighter team at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday as they took on a nation ranked number two in the world by FIFA.
Alphonso Davies had a golden opportunity to give Canada the lead from the penalty spot after just 10 minutes, but saw his effort saved by Thibaut Courtois.
Canada continued to look livelier against their more decorated rivals, but were made to pay for not taking their chances when Michy Batshuayi finished a route-one move to put Belgium ahead shortly before half-time.
Canada continued to press in the second half, ending the match with 21 shots to Belgium’s nine, but failed to make the breakthrough that many felt their performance deserved.
Among the star-studded Belgian line-up, Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne was one of numerous names who were largely kept quiet by the opposition.
Indeed, De Bruyne registered his surprise at being given the man-of-the-match award.
“I don’t think I played a great game. I don’t know why I got the trophy, maybe because of the name,” said the 31-year-old.
Canada head coach John Herdman, who formerly managed the country’s women’s national team, said his team’s performance proved they deserved to be in Qatar.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been back here. Our fans were football fans but tried to own the stadium tonight,” said the Englishman.
Herdman added in a separate interview that the team was determined to bounce back in their Group F meeting against Croatia on Sunday.
Beaten finalists in Russia four years ago, Croatia opened their 2022 campaign with a 0-0 draw against Morocco on Wednesday.
“I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and ‘F’ Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets,” Herdman said.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, who guided the team to a third-place finish in Russia, admitted his team was far from its best – but claimed they deserved all three points.
“You need to give huge respect to Canada’s performance... We didn’t do well what we were supposed to do, while they did well what they were supposed to do. But we deserve the win,” said the 49-year-old Spaniard.