Canada 'showed they belong' at the World Cup - John Herdman

Chris Smith
Canada proved a huge point on Wednesday.
Canada proved a huge point on Wednesday. / Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Even if you didn't see the match, it'd only take a cursory glance at the statistics to know that Canada pushed Belgium all the way despite Wednesday's 1-0 defeat at the World Cup.

Playing in their first World Cup match since 1986 against 2018's third-place team and current world No.2, Les Rouges dominated 22-9 on shots, 2.63-0.77 on Expected Goals, and 3-1 on big chances.

In the first half especially, the CanMNT had Belgium on the ropes and only found themselves 1-0 down after Alphonso Davies missed a penalty and the likes of Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David passed up big opportunities.

It should never have taken this long for Canada to return to this stage but now that they're back, it's like they've never been away.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been back [at the World Cup]. Canada showed tonight that they do belong here," Herdman declared after the match.

Things could've been so different had Canada shown the sort of ruthless streak that got their lackluster opponents over the line.

Even in the second half when energy levels dropped and Canada's press relented, they still enjoyed the best of the chances and did enough to snatch an equalizer, if not more.

But in defeat, Herdman has learned some valuable lessons about his players against the very best opposition, with vital games against Croatia and Morocco now lying in wait.

“Just having that ruthlessness,” Herdman responded when asked where Canada need to improve next time out. “I thought that, at times, it was one pass too many around the box. We talked about pulling the trigger, which was one of the learnings from Uruguay [in September], and they were brilliant against Japan.”

Focusing purely on the positives, the fact remains that Canada humbled one of the strongest national teams on the planet right now. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard looked unsettled and unable to find their rhythm, and optimism is high ahead of Sunday's meeting with Croatia.

“We came into that game with a couple of goals. The first goal was to play fearlessly, and the other goal was to entertain," said Herdman, adding: “I'm not going to criticize [the players] because when you outshoot Belgium 22-9 on the night, and it’s 27 crosses, I can’t complain too much.

“Sometimes it’s your night; sometimes it’s not your night.”

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