Canada to pose ageing Belgian defence some problems
Belgium have enough to carve out victory
Michy Batshuayi to score in Lukaku's absence
Belgium are heavy favourites to top Group F and they open their campaign against a Canada side competing in their first World Cup since 1986. This is likely to the last dance for this golden generation of Belgian players and having been perennial dark horses for the last number of international tournaments, they are coming into Qatar somewhat under the radar.
This Belgian side has a reputation as a flat track bully, comfortably beating sides they expect they should, but coming unstuck against higher quality opposition. Match odds of 40/85 would suggest they're expected to comfortably dispose of Canada here.
The absence of star striker Romelu Lukaku is a concern however that has opened the door for Michy Batshuayi to come to the fore. In the absence of Lukaku in the UEFA Nations League, Batshuayi scored three and assisted three in just five starts. At 10/11 to score anytime, Batshuayi looks a more than reasonable bet at the prices.
Canada feel like something of a wildcard here. They were impressive in CONCACAF qualifying, scoring the most goals while also conceding the least. However, form in 2022 has been mixed, they've beaten some lower-class opposition but lost to fellow World Cup qualifiers Uruguay and Costa Rica. A 2-0 qualifying victory over USA is their best win this year.
Canada's preparation has been interesting to say the least. Players boycotted a friendly during the summer due to a squabble with their federation over player bonuses. The squad also has a sizeable MLS contingent, and those players haven't played in at least a month due to the league schedule. They'll either be fresh and ready to go or lacking in match sharpness, however you want to look at it.
With players such as Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Cyle Larin, Canada do have enough going forward to cause an ageing Belgian defence problems. Davies will play further up the pitch than he does with Bayern Munich and Canada will be looking to make the most of his talents going forward.
In nine games this year, Belgium have kept just two clean sheets, against Poland in the UEFA Nations League and a friendly against Burkina Faso. They have struggled to blood new talent into a defence that is potentially past its best. While I expect Belgium to come out on top here, I think Canada have the attacking talent to trouble Belgium.
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