DOHA – Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was happy with what he called a deserved 1-0 win over Canada in World Cup Group F on Wednesday, despite the “worst technical performance” of his six-year tenure.
After Argentina and Germany lost their opening games, Belgium came close to suffering another major upset. But the team who finished third at the 2018 World Cup top the group by two points from Croatia and Morocco.
“Was it technically the worst performance? Yes. The worst game? No, because it’s a win at the World Cup. We had to show a different side of our game and had to defend really well,” Martinez said.
“You need to give huge respect to Canada’s performance... we didn’t do well what we were supposed to do while they did well what they were supposed to do. But we deserve the win.”
There is obviously massive room for improvement for Belgium, who were pale shadows of the brilliant side that reached the last four in Russia four years ago.
“We have to be self-critical and improve. But it’s better to do it when you have three points, especially after seeing what happened (to Argentina and Germany),” Martinez added.
Midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, however, was plainly dissatisfied and the Man-of-the-Match award he received did little to console him.
“I don’t think I played a great game. I don’t know why I got the trophy. Maybe because of my name,” he said.
“We started bad, and the momentum was with Canada. We didn’t find a way to go through that press. We didn’t build up well while there was a lot of space. It wasn’t good enough.
“But we know what to change. The precision was lacking, also with me. We made it difficult for ourselves and that caused stressed in the team.”
That stress was particularly evident in the first half when Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stopped a penalty from Alphonso Davies among a series of good saves.
Belgium were without injured record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku and struggled with the pace of Canada’s forwards.
But Michy Batshuayi’s first-half goal proved enough in the end for the below-par side, who allowed the Canadians 22 attempts on goal while they had just nine themselves.
John Herdman’s Canada, playing in their first World Cup since 1986 and roared on by their vocal support, also had another strong penalty appeal turned down and dominated the second half.
“They showed tonight that they do belong here,” Herdman said of his players.
“We came into our game with a couple of goals. The first goal was to play fearless, and the second goal was stay in the game.
“I’m proud of what they did, really proud.” REUTERS, AFP
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