Belgium and Canada will make their first appearance at the 2022 World Cup when they face off at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Wednesday.
Belgium’s aging Golden Generation encounter elated Canada for the first time since 1986.
According to midfielder Jonathan Osorio, Canada will enter the World Cup opening match against Belgium with “faith, not hope”.
The North Americans defied expectations to top the final group of the CONCACAF qualifiers — ahead of the United States and Mexico — and secure an automatic spot in Qatar 2022, and Osorio is confident of creating more surprises.
The clash with the Belgian side featuring Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois is christening in their first World Cup appearance in 36 years but Osorio is poised to defy expectations in a Group F match at the Stadium Al Rayyan Cave.
Much of Belgium’s build-up depends on the fitness of striker Romelu Lukaku, who will miss the first two games in Qatar following a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
Former Belgium captain Vincent Kompany, now Burnley’s coach in the English Championship, understands why Roberto Martinez chose to bet on the fitness of the Inter player.
Manchester City’s midfield conductor is someone Canada must try to keep quiet.
He has 155 involvements in the goal in just 224 Premier League appearances and a range of passes that can torment any defence. He will miss Lukaku’s physical presence – as both a target and a space maker – but De Bruyne still has the weapons to make the difference.
Jonathan David may play a little further than De Bruyne but his stats are similar. In 15 Ligue 1 games for Lille this season, the 22-year-old has contributed nine goals and three assists. Determined to join one of Europe’s big boys at the end of the season, David hopes to use the World Cup as a springboard.
Belgium’s possible starting lineup:
Courtois (GK), Alderweireld, Dendoncker, Vertonghen, Meunier, Witsel, Tielemans, Carrasco, De Bruyne, Batshuayi, Eden Hazard
Canada’s possible starting lineup:
Borjan (GK), Johnston, Vitoria, Buchanan, Miller, Eustaquio, Hutchinson, Davies, Adekugbe, David, Larin
Belgium 2 – 0 Canada