clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

World Cup Recaps: Belgium 1-0 Canada | Onana highlights second-half changes in win

Against the run of play, Red Devils escaped match day one with victory against the plucky Maple Leafs

Belgium v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

On a day where the remarkably talented Belgium - led by former Toffee boss Roberto Martinez - didn't play its best football, the team escaped with three points against a tough Canada side that will not be easy to beat in their remaining two matches. Group F started out slowly, with Croatia drawing against Morocco, but with the results as they’ve fallen, it appears currently that Canada and Croatia will be fighting it out for the second position, while Morocco still could easily spoil those dreams and the brackets of many onlookers.

The stats tell one side of this match, and apart from the goal that came against the run of play at the end of the first half by Michy Batshuayi, Canada had many of the better chances for the first fifty to sixty minutes. The shots were one-sided, and with better finishing from Alphonso Davies on the early penalty awarded by VAR to Canada, the direction of the entire match might have been far different than what it became.

Belgium to their credit, however, was stronger in the second half in many ways, and the substitutions that Martinez employed - including bringing Amadou Onana of Everton into the match for Youri Tielemans - did fortify the Red Devils when they needed support.

Roberto Martinez was playing Tielemans up top on the right wing for the first half, but when he gave way to Onana as one of two subs to open up the second half for Belgium, the shape changed from what appeared a 3-4-3 to start to something more similar to a 4-4-2 in attack and even something like a 5-4-1. Onana would find himself picking up a yellow card just minutes after coming on for his first career World Cup match, but the defensive aggression, ball handling, and passing abilities helped to create more control for the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, and company.

On the whole Onana looked good, controlling the ball and moving upfront with it earlier on before it appears Martinez had him sit back in a more withdrawn position even as Canada surged forward in numbers seeking the equalizer.

As Onana continues to grow into his abilities and physical attributes, it will be important for Frank Lampard to give the player greater creative freedom and responsibility. He looked a natural alongside the top-class Belgian players of the last decade, and will very likely be a stellar player for that nation for the next decade or so; while he currently plays an often defensive position, I could see a Pogba-esque versatility developing where he can play equally well as an attacking and defensive midfielder.

For Onana and Belgium moving forward, the test will be Morroco where an upset would see the African nation in a better position to advance than most pundits considered when the groups were announced. Canada, meanwhile, will find itself in a position where a loss against Croatia would likely signal their eventual early exit from this tournament, while Croatia would certainly like to put itself in a better position to move forward than their first match has left them.