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Winners & Losers

Canada learn World Cup's cruelty: Winners, losers & ratings as Alphonso Davies misses penalty in 22-shot loss to Belgium

5:41 AM SGT 24/11/22
Davies post match belgium
The CONCACAF upstarts could barely have played any better, but still left without any points.

It was one of those games that left all involved wondering what just happened.

Canada, playing in their first World Cup since 1986, entered the tournament as a relative mystery. They're a young team far ahead of schedule, so far ahead, in fact, that Nike didn't even think to design new kits for a World Cup. That's how far away this dream was.

In their old kits, Canada showed why they're on their way to being a new contender. They absolutely took it to one of the world's top teams on Wednesday, notching a 21-shot performance that included everything but a goal. Alphonso Davies missed a penalty while two other shouts for a spot-kick were denied.

Belgium still won 1-0. Cruel and hard to believe. But the nature of the World Cup.

A strike from Michy Batshuayi, the penalty save from Thibaut Courtois and poof: Belgium had all three points, and probably had zero idea how they'd actually gotten them.

Still, there's a silver lining: The world now knows that Canada are here to play.

  • Tajon Buchanan Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    The Winners

    Tajon Buchanan

    No, the finishing boots weren't there, but Buchanan was the definition of electric.

    He came out of the gates on fire, driving at Belgium's defense time and time again. His ability to turn with the ball routinely allowed him to carve open Belgium's defense, helping Canada create chance after chance in the first half.

    Does he lose a few points for not taking those chances, including one sliding finish from close range fired into the sky? Yes. But he also deserved a lot of credit for creating them.

    If big clubs are watching, they'll have been impressed by Buchanan, who showed plenty of glimpses into what he can do.

    O Canada:

    Imagine thinking of Canada as only a hockey country...

    The Canadians were far, far louder than the Belgians, as you would have mistaken Al Rayyan for Toronto if you closed your eyes for just a little bit. The eruption when the referee went to VAR shook Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, as did the numerous "Let's go Canada" chants that frequently came from behind the goal.

    It's been a four-decade-long wait for this and the environment was special. Davies' introduction was unforgettable, as was O Canada, the anthem sung loud and proud by the thousands of Canadians in attendance.

    Canada fans are out in full force, and they'll be a presence for the rest of the group stage. The team will be, too, having shown they have the speed and mentality to play with absolutely everyone.

    Kamal Miller:

    From his tearful performance of the national anthem all the way to his emphatic fist pumps after a game-saving tackle, Miller was all emotion and all heart.

    The 25-year-old defender was an absolute force in defense, leading an emotionally charge Canada back-line into an absolute war with one of the world's best teams.

    Miller isn't one of this team's big names, not by a long shot, but he was Canada's biggest player on the day.

  • Alphonso Davies penalty attempt Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    The Losers

    Alphonso Davies:

    What a moment it could have, and should have, been. Canadian soccer's biggest superstar stepping up to the penalty spot in his national team's biggest moment.

    It was Alphonso Davies' time in the spotlight, but Thibaut Courtois took it from him.

    VAR had given Canada a penalty, much to the delight of what was essentially a hometown crowd, but Courtois made a massive save of a shot that in truth could have been sharper.

    Davies knew what it meant. He sat there, head in hands, for several seconds before team-mates came to console him. He knew that was the turning point.

    Canada did recover, continuing their relentless push, but Davies' penalty was the moment. They could have seized control but, instead, their star handed it right back to Belgium, who found a way to survive.

    Making matters worse was that Jonathan David, a legitimate penalty taker, was right there. Davies had never taken a penalty for Canada and you'll admire his courage to step up as Canada's leader. It just didn't work.

    Janny Sikazwe:

    About 30 minutes into the match, an Egyptian journalist nearby had had enough.

    "This referee, the one from Zambia," he whispered, "everyone knows he's the worst referee in all of Africa."

    It's hard to say if he is, in fact the worst, but his performance in this one definitely left open the possibility.

    Wildly inconsistent throughout, Sikazwe's foul calls were all over the place. Canada got one penalty in the first half, but probably could have had two or three.

    You can call things a certain way and that's fine, as long as you keep calling them that way. There was no consistency in the referee's calls, and that took a bit out of what was otherwise a marvelous game.

    The run of play:

    My goodness, the soccer gods can be cruel. So, so cruel.

    There was no metric where Belgium were better than Canada. There was no conceivable way to say that, on this day, they were the better team. The only statistic they really led Canada in, funnily enough, was goals, the only one that matters.

    This should have been Canada's day. They were proactive, confident and determined. Belgium, meanwhile, were timid and sloppy, seemingly stunned by the pure speed at which Canada played.

    On most days, that would have been enough for a multi-goal win. On Wednesday, though, it was enough for a whole lot of nothing, except some frustration and bunch of heartbreak.

  • Milan Borjan Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    Canada ratings: Defence

    Milan Borjan (6/10):

    Maybe could have done better on Batshuayi's goal, but didn't have much else to do.

    Kamal Miller (8/10):

    All heart. What a performance.

    Steven Vitoria (6/10):

    Was caught a bit flat-footed on the goal, but was good enough otherwise.

    Alistair Johnston (7/10):

    Several big, memorable tackles throughout.

  • Atiba Hutchinson Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    Midfield

    Alphonso Davies (5/10):

    Missed the penalty, but his speed was on display. Gassed out by the end, though, as he didn't look fully fit.

    Stephen Eustaquio (7/10):

    He nutmegged Kevin De Bruyne. Should give him 100,000/10 just for that.

    Atiba Hutchinson (7/10):

    He's 39-years-old and had the legs to keep up with Belgium's midfield. Bless him.

    Richie Laryea (7/10):

    Another one with several crunching tackles. No fault in his game.

  • Canada Belgium penalty shout

    Attack

    Junior Hoilett (7/10):

    Another veteran that showed out in his long-awaited World Cup debut. A solid performance.

    Jonathan David (5/10):

    Just didn't quite seem himself. Normally so efficient, it just wasn't there. Seven shots, zero on target.

    Tajon Buchanan (8/10):

    Wasteful, but still gets this score because he was just that good on the ball.

  • John Herdman Canada Belgium World Cup 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Cyle Larin (6/10):

    Replaced Hoilett to add another goalscorer, but couldn't find the frame.

    Ismael Kone (6/10):

    Has been a professional for just over a year. Now he's played at a World Cup, and didn't look overwhelmed. Big things ahead.

    Sam Adekugbe (6/10):

    Not much of a chance to make an impact after replacing Laryea.

    Jonathan Osorio (N/A):

    Replaced Eustaquio late for fresh legs.

    Liam Millar (N/A)

    Brought a bit of energy with his late cameo.

    Jonathan Herdman (9/10)

    Couldn't have worked it up any better. Put out a pacey lineup that gave Belgium fits. Only thing missing were the goals Canada deserved.