AL RAYYAN – O Canada, the waiting remains.
Alphonso Davies had the chance to score his country’s first-ever World Cup goal and quickly took the lead. As Davies prepared for the penalty after a handball in the 11th minute, the red-clad Canadian fans at the other end of Ahmed bin Ali Stadium buzzed in anticipation of a decade-long moment.
“They carry the weight of a nation: 36 years waiting – longer than 36 years for our first goal,” said coach John Herdman.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois tapped correctly to dive to the right, beating Davis’ try with his forearm. The ball bounced and the Canadians never got closer to scoring.
Despite dominating the world’s second-placed team in Canada’s first World Cup game since 1986, the Canadians lost 1-0 to Belgium on Wednesday night when Michy Batshuayi scored from a quick 44th-minute counterattack.
Davies did not speak to the media after the game.
“He’s our star player. He’s one of the best players in the world. He’ll go ahead and get another chance and bury it,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “There was also the best goalkeeper in the world in the net, he had to overtake him.”
Courtois had studied a video of Davies.
“He shot twice from that side, so I went that route,” Courtois said.
A majority of the 40,432 spectators in the Arabian Desert Stadium supported Canada.
Many waved the maple leaf and proudly sang “O Canada” before the game.
“Goosebumps,” said Osorio. “Times are changing for this sport in this country. I was a bit surprised. It is not a short journey from Canada to get here. It shows you how much support we have, how much the fans love football, how much the people love football in Canada. This is a change in the history of this sport in this country. It felt like a home game. And I think Belgium felt like an away game.”
The players brought back the sword they carried throughout Central America and the Caribbean during qualifying, which is inscribed with the inscription “Nihil timendum est (Fear Nothing)”.
Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield spoke to the team before the game.
Atiba Hutchinson, aged 39, is the oldest non-goalkeeper to start a World Cup game.
Although Canada fell 4-0 at the World Cup, the players felt proud and felt they had come into Sunday’s match against Croatia, defeated 2018 World Cup finalists, with momentum. Croatia opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco.
“They walk away proud, I’m sure, proud of the feeling that we’re a footballing nation,” Herdman said. “We went into this game with two goals. The first goal was to play fearlessly, and the second goal was to entertain. We had some other goals, which was to create some firsts, but we weren’t quite up to those moments.”
He gathered the players on the field after the final whistle.
“I was really passionate about the circle,” Herdman said, recounting what he told them. “I thought that would be a big step for this country. We deserve to be here. You showed that. You have shown that you can live here.”
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