Belgium v Canada
After 36 long years, Canada has returned to the World Cup.
Nearly four decades of heartache and frustration will wash away on Wednesday when Canada faces Belgium in their Group F opener.
Belgium have always been tipped for success in recent major tournaments, however time is running out for this crop labelled ‘The Golden Generation’.
Recent results have indicated all is not well for Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils, as highlighted in Friday night’s friendly defeat against Egypt.
Egypt proved that the Belgian defence is still a weakness, mainly due to a lack of pace. The Egyptians edged Belgium 2-1 and caused a ruckus on the counter-attack.
Many would predict this to be a foregone conclusion for the Belgians, however with the eyes of the world watching and a long absence from the grandest stage of them all, Canada will not lie down lightly and will look to punish a Belgium side that have been perennial underperformers in recent years.
If there’s one area where Canada can threaten Belgium, it’s in transition. The Belgians have conceded 1.67 counter-attacks per 90 minutes in the past 12 months, but have conceded a shot in those situations 60 per cent of the time. The other three Group F sides have allowed attempts on just 30 per cent of opposition counters.
Belgium did not have a successful final rehearsal. Last Friday they lost the friendly against Egypt, a similar opponent. Speed up front, coupled with a powerful defense. Belgium’s defense is its biggest concern. Only 4 times in the last 16 games have they kept a clean sheet. And that with perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world in goal. Courtois can’t be blamed for anything. Players like Kompany and Vermaelen are clearly missed, Alderweireld and Vertonghen are also getting older. Martinez opted for the 18-year-old Debast as the third man in defense for the last three matches, but he made a few mistakes on opposing goals and regularly left space behind. After Egypt, wingback Castagne and midfielder Vanaken commented that there was a lack of communication against Egypt, which is an indirect criticism to young Debast. The other option at the back is Dendoncker. He did an excellent job in the Nations League against Poland. It would not be surprising should Martinez revert to Dendoncker for the opening game. Although he is also vulnerable against Canada’s speedy strikers.
Coach Roberto Martinez must be wary of that threat, though, so there could be moments when Belgium retreats and forces Canada to break them down.
Regardless, there should be plenty of chances for both sides, and both teams to score looks an attractive prospect at 1.87 to bolster a potential bet builder.
When playing against better opposition, Canada tend to get more yellow cards. Recently, they’ve picked up two cards in games against Japan, Uruguay and the USA. They’ll be up against a Belgium side with much better players here.
There’s a good chance both sides play a back three, meaning players will be directly matched up in each area of the pitch. This should leave plenty of one on one scenarios out wide. With players like Hazard, who draws 3.85 fouls per game for Belgium, Canada’s back line could pick up a few bookings.
There aren’t many strikers who enter the World Cup in better form than Jonathan David. The Canadian forward has nine goals in 15 games for Lille this season, and even though he didn’t score in any of the club’s final four matches before the Ligue 1 pause, there’s a good chance he’ll remain active in the box for Canada.
In the last five Canada matches with a David goal, he’s generated at least two shots on target in three of the games. The 2-0 loss to Uruguay saw him register three attempts on target to no avail and he had four total shots in last weeks’ win over Japan.
David is practically a guarantee to pop up in promising areas and should test goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois based on recent trends.
Canada and Belgium will play in a more or less mirrored formation as they are both familiar with the 3-4-3 system. Because most of the ball possession and threat comes from Belgium’s left side, Canada’s rather offensive wingback on the right, Buchanan, will have to do a lot of defensive work.
This young player will certainly want to prove himself, as he plays for Belgium’s Club Brugge. In his Champions League duels, we could already see that he is solid in duels. So there is value in a yellow card for him.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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