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Canada misses penalty and comes up just short against Belgium in FIFA World Cup

Canada belongs on the World Cup stage.

The Canadian group proved just that despite a 1-0 loss to Belgium, the No. 2-ranked team in the world, in its tournament opener at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Wednesday.

The match was Canada’s first at the World Cup in 13,316 days, when they competed in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico 36 years ago when they allowed five goals while losing all three matches.

One lapse erased a half of work for the No. 41-ranked Canada against Belgium.

Belgium took a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute off the foot of Michy Batshuayi, who booted an elevated kick by Canadian keeper Milan Borjan just before half-time. Batshuayi split between Miller and Steven Vitoria for the strike.

The goal came after Canada dominated the opening half of the match.

Alphonso Davies came oh so close to putting Canada up in the match in the 10th minute, but was denied by a fine save from Thibaut Courtois, who won the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper in the 2018 World Cup.

Canada was awarded the penalty kick for a handball in the area from Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco.

Junior Hoilett also sent a low shot wide of the far post in the 16th minute, and Kamal Miller dove to block Michy Batshuayi’s attempt in the 23rd minute to prevent a quality scoring chance.

Atiba Hutchinson punched a shot wide from distance after a nifty setup featuring quality footwork by Davies in the 27th minute, and Courtois, the first Belgian keeper to play at three World Cups, punched out a ball off the foot of Alistair Johnston in the 30th minute.

Canada had 14 attempts — the most at a World Cup without scoring since 2006 — at the Belgium goal in the first half to Belgium’s four. Each had two on target.

Belgium put forth a stronger effort in the second half, but Richie Laryea denied the opponent’s top attempt off the foot of Batshuayi with a nifty slide tackle.

Belgium put forth a stronger effort in the second half, but Richie Laryea denied the opponent’s top attempt off the foot of Batshuayi with a nifty slide tackle.

Alistair Johnston’s cross into a header by Cyle Larin produced Canada’s best opportunity to score in the latter stages of the game, but was snatched by Courtois in the 80th minute.

Larin had another header opportunity in the 86th minute, to no avail.

Canada had a corner kick in the 89th minute, but couldn’t connect on a cross on the delivery for the 1-0 final.

The Canadians will play the No. 12-ranked Croatia on Sunday, November 27 at 8 am PT/11 am ET before finishing the group stage against Morocco, No. 22, on Thursday, December 1 at 7 am PT/10 am ET. Croatia and Morocco played to a 0-0 draw earlier Wednesday.

Canada’s matches can be watched on TSN and CTV, where available.

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