Well. now I know what it is like to have World Cup heartbreak.
It isn’t a good feeling. Canada lost their opening match of the tournament to Belgium. Now if you would have told me that a few months ago, I would have been fine with it. I didn’t have many expectations heading into the game other than “don’t get blown out.” But, given the way Canada played, it was a game that they should’ve won.
“When you try your best and you don’t succeed” is the opening line of Coldplay’s hit song Fix You. It sums up Canada’s performance.
But there were other World Cup games to be played on Wednesday and let’s talk about those first. After I wallow my sorrows in bagels from Sollys. (Not sponsored by the way.)
Croatia and Morocco play to a 0-0 draw
I didn’t think this would be a goalless draw but that is what happened.
What was also kind of surprising was Morocco looked like they were the better team. The Moroccans were defending well and their goalkeeper Yassine Bounou made a good save off Andrej Kramarić late in the first half.
Croatia didn’t look as threatening as they did in past tournaments despite having 65% possession. They couldn’t seem to break the deadlock which was Bounou and the Moroccan defence. Perhaps this is just a small hiccup for Croatia.
Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech were among the players creating chances for Morocco but couldn’t make them count. Despite the draw, it looked like an entertaining game.
Another upset! Japan beats Germany
The World Cup can provide upsets and for the second straight day, we got one!
Japan has always been a team that has been better than many think. However, they were up against the mighty Germans who had a mix of veterans like Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer and some youngsters such as Jamal Musiala and Kai Havertz.
Germany’s “attack until I die” mentality was on display but they couldn’t finish their chances except for an İlkay Gündoğan penalty thanks to a silly challenge from Japanese goalkeeper Shūichi Gonda. Havertz’s 2-0 goal was called offside thanks to VAR. Germany had 26 shots but the Japanese never quit.
Gonda was making some solid saves and Japan’s goals came off the bench thanks to Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano. The defending on the second goal was pretty bad. It looked like the defenders were asleep when Asano made his run.
Japan never won a game at the World Cup when conceding the first goal until Wednesday. The Land of The Rising Sun had to rise to the occasion.
Spain destroys Costa Rica
I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. This was an absolute slaughter-fest. Spain was expected to win but not 7-0.
You can’t really fault Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas here. The defending in front of him was a disaster as they let Spain get chances very easily.
Spain has a young team that has a very bright future with players such as Ansu Fait, Gavi, and Ferran Torres.
Canada plays Belgium in a Fifa in a real-life game with some questionable reffing
The game of the day. For the first time since 1986, Canada was playing a game at the World Cup.
Canada came out more than ready. They showed the world they were here to compete. Canada played very well and they started the game with a lot of pressure on Belgium which forced a ton of turnovers. They were making sure Kevin de Bruyne was isolated so he couldn’t use his creativity.
Canada was moving the ball well and almost went up 1-0…but Alphonso Davies got his penalty saved by Thibaut Courtois.
Davies has scored two penalties in his career, they were against the Cayman Islands and Curacao. I get why John Herdman let the players decide who takes penalties. It does make sense to let your best player take them but your best player isn’t always your best penalty-taker. It wasn’t a good penalty taken by Davies, especially against one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Jonathan David is nine for twelve in penalty kicks in his career. Why not let him take it? He has the experience and a good track record in penalties.
The Canadians had good chances but they didn’t capitalize. They seemed to mess it up in the final third too.
When you don’t capitalize on your chances, it comes back to bite you, especially against the second-ranked team in the world. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, (Shots were 22-9 for Canada) all it takes is one chance for Belgium which is what happened.
The backline kind of fell asleep as Michy Batshuyai scored off the rush.
The free kicks and corners looked poor. Stephen Eustaqio’s passes looked good but not his free kicks. (He did nutmeg De Bruyne though.) The corners didn’t look that great either, especially the last corner from Davies which sailed over everyone’s head and went out.
Cyle Larin, Atiba Hutchinson and Alistair Johnston had chances that were saved by Courtois or missed the net. Jonathan David looked quiet in this game but he did have a header that just went wide.
Canada probably should’ve had two more penalties. The first one is weird because it was called offside but you cannot be offside when the opponent has possession. I didn’t think the second one was a penalty when I first saw the replay but after a closer look, it looked like a penalty. It was clear as day.
Cue Didier Drogba saying “It’s a f***ing disgrace!”
While you could argue that Canada got robbed, (a lot of people do) they needed to finish their chances. It was encouraging with the way they played but it could’ve been much more. This felt like Man of Steel: looked good early and for most of the film but the ending wasn’t good and it leaves you wanting more.
This loss stings. Canada played really well. Even Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Canada was the better team and the Belgians didn’t play well.
I should mention Kamal Miller should have been the man of the match. He was making huge blocks and tackles.
De Bruyne didn’t look his best until Eden Hazard came off in the 61st minute. Hazard looked like his old self in this game. As a Chelsea fan, I couldn’t help but feel happy for him. Hazard was making good dribbles and winning fouls. Those are what made him a world-class player for Chelsea.
But for Canada, Croatia is up next. John Herdman was proud of his players and is determined to beat Croatia.
There were lots to like from Canada but soccer is won by goals and Canada still has yet to score at the men’s World Cup.
Man, this one hurts.
Goal of the day
The pass was great too but Asano showed great pace for Japan’s winning goal.
Stat (s) of the day
That is elite company to be in. For all you hockey fans, Canada is among the elites in Corsi. If Canada keeps this up, getting out of the group stage is possible.
Tweet/Meme of the day
Maybe the Japanese players watched Erwin Smith’s speech in the Attack On Titan Episode “Perfect Game.” Or maybe the Japanese manager took inspiration from it by saying “My players rage, my players scream, my players fight!” (Mild spoilers for Attack On Titan.)
Fan (s) of the day
This goes to everyone who watched the game at the Hollywood Theatre today. Nathan Durec and I were there and it was a great atmosphere. O Canada was sung really loud and if Davies scored the penalty, you probably would’ve heard us from Surrey.
Who takes the L of the day?
That goes to the referee, Janny Sikazwe, who didn’t give Canada the two penalties. He was the same referee who ended a match at AFCON in the 85th minute (he was apparently suffering from heat stroke) and was suspended over a deplorable incident in a 2018 game between Tunisia and Mali.