Al Rayyan, Qatar, Nov 23 (EFE).- Star-studded Belgium eked out a 1-0 win here Wednesday over a Canada side making their first appearance in a World Cup since 1986.
The Belgians, ranked second in the world by FIFA, grabbed first place in Group F with 3 points, 2 better than 2018 runners-up Croatia and Morocco, who played to a scoreless draw earlier Wednesday.
Though the third-place finishers in World Cup 2018 had 54 percent possession, the Canadians outshot them 22-9 and were by far the more dynamic squad in the first half.
Michy Batshuayi, filling the lone striker role pending Romelu Lukaku’s recovery from injury, forced a save from Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the second minute before the initiative shifted to the North Americans.
Tajon Buchanan, who plays professionally for Club Brugge, won a corner and his effort off the initial kick resulted – after a VAR review – in a penalty for a Yannick Carrasco hand-ball.
Bayern Munich man Alphonso Davies took the kick for Canada and watched Real Madrid stalwart Thibaut Courtois save it.
The Belgium keeper dealt easily with a shot by Alistair Johnston in the 28th minute and defender Jan Vertonghen blocked Jonathan David’s strike a few minutes later.
Canada thought they had won another penalty after Richie Laryea went down in the box in a tangle with Axel Witsel, but the referee didn’t see it and VAR concluded that there wasn’t enough in it.
With the first half drawing to a close, a deep ball from Toby Alderweireld found Batshuayi in the area and the striker put Belgium up 1-0.
It was the Fenerbahce man’s 18th goal in 25 starts for the national side.
Belgium improved after the break, while the Canadians paid the price of their exertions in the first half, yet Courtois was tested one last time, a strike by David in the 80th minute. EFE omb/dr