Canada’s chances of moving beyond the group stage look slim – but they did finish top in CONCACAF qualifying, beating the USA and Mexico on their way to the main event for the first time in 36 years.
Belgium vs Canada, Group F qualifying match
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Qatar 2022
Wednesday 23 November, 14.00 US EST, 19.00 GMT, 22.00 local time
If we look at the teams in Group F on paper, or stack them up based on FIFA world rankings, it would take a brave person to back Canada to advance.
Belgium are ranked #2, Croatia #16, Morocco #24 and Canada are #38.
But Canada earned their place in Qatar having topped CONCACAF qualifying. Which means to get here they have already excelled in beating #9 Mexico and #15 USA.
So have no doubt, none of the teams in Group F will take their presence lightly for fear of an embarrassing, potentially costly, banana peel.
The sporting world is littered with cautionary tales of the underdog, free from the weight of any expectation, delivering the upset that no one expected.
Granted, it’s a tiny country compared to some of its European neighbours, but this “golden generation” of Belgian football has not lived up to expectation.
Their biggest achievement on the international stage is reaching the FIFA World Cup semi-final in 2018, losing to eventual winners France.
In Euro 2020 (played in 2021 due to the pandemic) they topped their group. The beat Portugal 1-0 in the first knockout round (no mean feat), but lost 2-1 to Italy (again the eventual winners) in the quarterfinals.
Boasting a wealth of talent from some of the world’s biggest clubs, this will feel like this side’s best shot at making a real challenge for World Cup glory.
For Canada, at their first World Cup finals in 36 years, they’ll be extremely confident after a tremendous qualifying campaign.
Players To Watch – Belgium
Midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne is an obvious standout, looking to bring his form after a spectacular Premier League title-winning season at Manchester Cityf.
Speaking of winning seasons, having bagged the Champions League and La Liga, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard captains the side. Teammate Thibaut Courtois, one of the best keepers in the world, plays in his third World Cup in Qatar.
In Russia 2018, Courtois won the Golden Glove. In a national shirt, he boasts an admirable 44% clean-sheet ratio (16 from 36 games).
After a lackluster season at Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku will be determined to get back on track for his national team.
Players To Watch – Canada
This tournament is largely about Canada’s young guns.
22-year-old Jonathan David netted nine times in CONCACAF qualifying, and is coming off a stellar season with 15 goals for Lille. Nearby, Tajon Buchanan, 23, who plays his football in Belgium at Club Brugge. Called into the senior squad just last year, he’ll be looking to impress.
A slightly older head (albeit at just 27), Cyle Larin was the highest CONCACAF goalscorer this year, with 13.
Bayern Munich left back and wunderkid Alphonso Davies is already a star, at the ripe old age of 21. His transfer deal to Bayern in 2019 set an MLS record at the time.
He was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Season for 2019-2020 – the year Bayern did the treble. He made his senior team debut for Canada in 2017 – the youngest ever.
His combination of pace and skill on the ball, along with his creativity will keep any backline on their toes.
Head-to-head: Belgium vs Canada
Alas, there’s very little to cover here. The two teams have only met once before – in a friendly played in Ottawa back in 1989.
On that occasion, Belgium came out triumphant, 2-0 winners after second-half goals from Jan Ceulemans and Marc Degryse.
Canada will hope to level the score with an upset in Group F at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Canada are at their first World Cup finals in 36 years. With Croatia and Morocco also in Group F, it seems unlikely they’ll advance beyond the group stage, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be out to make a name for themselves.
And maybe even snatch a surprise win somewhere on the game’s biggest stage.
How to watch Belgium vs Canada, World Cup Group F
In the US, on Fox Sports/FS1 at 14.00 (English); Telemundo (Spanish)
Fox Sports holds English-language rights, and will air all 64 matches live across the Fox and FS1 channels. All games will also stream live on the Fox Sports app.
NBCUniversal’s Telemundo holds Spanish-language rights in the US.
In the UK, on ITV at 19.00
In the UK, the BBC and ITV share coverage rights, between them showing all matches. Here is the whole schedule for both channels – who is showing what, when.
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