Canada pay penalty in narrow Belgium loss

Michy Batshuayi has scored in the first half and Thibaut Courtois saved a penalty as Belgium opened their World Cup campaign with a scrappy 1-0 win over an energetic Canada.

Leading Belgium's attack in the absence of injured talisman Romelu Lukaku, Batshuayi scored against the run of play on the stroke of halftime to put the Red Devils top of Group F ahead of Morocco and Croatia who earlier drew 0-0.

The result could have been very different, with Canada recording 21 attempts on goal to their rivals' nine, and Belgium were thankful for Courtois' early spot-kick stop from Alphonso Davies.

"This was not good enough," midfielder Kevin de Bruyne said.

"We made it difficult for ourselves and stress crept into the team. It has to be better, myself included."

In their only previous World Cup appearance, in Mexico in 1986, Canada lost all three matches and failed to score.

Despite an inspired effort 36 years later, the result remained the same as Canada walked off the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium pitch with another loss having again failed to find the back of the net.

They looked as if they would register their long-awaited first goal when Belgium's Yannick Carrasco handled the ball in the 11th minute and Davies stepped up to take the penalty.

But Courtois denied him, leaping to his right to save the Bayern Munich player's weak spot-kick.

Canada continued to press, their speed creating havoc in Belgium's defence and keeping Courtois busy throughout the first half.

But against the run of play Belgium took the lead when Batshuayi broke between two defenders, ran on to a long ball and shot past goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 44th minute.

Canada coach John Herdman said before the match his men would bring a 'nothing to lose' approach to their opening game against the second-ranked Belgians who arrived in Qatar saddled with the burden of expectation.

The Canadians, who surprised by finishing top of the CONCACAF qualifying group ahead of traditional regional powerhouses Mexico and the United States, represented a potentially tricky opener for Roberto Martinez's side and proved to be just that.

"They showed tonight that they do belong here," Herdman said of his players.

"It's been a long time since we've been back.

"We came into our game with a couple of goals. The first goal was to play fearless, and the second goal was to stay in the game.

"I'm proud of what they did, really proud. They proved they can play here."