PREVIEW – CanMNT face Belgium in the second game of Group F at the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, and both teams will look to start off the tournament in winning fashion on Wednesday but might have to do so with some key players missing.
CanMNT Face Belgium: First Test, Biggest Test
CanMNT Preview: Davies to Start? Question Marks for Eustáquio & Borjan
In an interview on Saturday according to Stephen Wade of the Globe and Mail, Head Coach John Herdman shared to listening fans some bleak news about the squad, revealing that star-boy Alphonso Davies, in-form Stephen Eustáquio, and the ever-present Milan Borjan were all dealing with injuries just days before the opening game.
“My mission is to make sure he [Davies] plays at this World Cup,… And not to put him in a position where he’s unsafe” said Herdman. On Eustáquio, Herdman noted that his progress was being analyzed “day by day”, and that “it will be [about] mathematics” if he will or will not start. Lastly, Milan Borjan allegedly felt “something in his abdomen” in the game versus Japan but there is no indication if it will prove to be a problem for the opening game.
However, just this morning, in an interview with James Duthie, Davies revealed that he felt like he is “ready to start” against Belgium and that the team wouldn’t start him if he felt 50-50. As well, both Borjan and Eustáquio have seen training in the first training session in Qatar alongside the team. It will remain to be seen if Herdman is just being precautious or if he is trying to keep his opposite manager Roberto Martinez guessing.
— Peter Galindo (@GalindoPW) November 20, 2022
Canada Predicted Line-up and Tactics for when CanMNT Face Belgium
The Potential 3-4-2-1 Formation for the CanMNT
With the news that Davies feels ready to start and both Eustáquio and Borjan being in regular training, Herdman will be hoping that he can field his strongest XI. If all are fit, Herdman will have to decide if he goes for a more free-flowing 3-4-2-1 or a more structured and disciplined 4-4-2.
If Herdman goes for the 3-4-2-1, it would allow Davies to play in his favored position for Canada: as a playmaker behind the striker who drifts wide and runs in behind with his electric pace. As well, it would allow Junior Hoilett to be included, which would be much deserved after his fantastic performance versus Japan last week.
It gives license to both Samuel Adekugbe and Buchanan to race down the wings and cause trouble but also asks them to be sharp in their defensive duties and not leave their backline exposed in quick transitions. Yet, having Atiba Hutchinson back in the midfield, who likes to drop between the defenders on the attack, might provide the necessary cover for this more attacking formation to function properly.
The Potential 4-4-2 Formation for the CanMNT
Belgium, though, does provide a strong test with a strong team, so Herdman might want to opt for a more structured and stable formation in the classic 4-4-2. Canada has shown that they can be extremely disciplined in such a formation, with it being the formation that they employed in the famous 2-1 win vs Mexico last year in qualifying. It would most likely mean that Junior Hoilett sits out of the XI and is replaced by Cyle Larin, who would take up the striker role with Jonathan David just sitting behind as a second-striker; his preferred role at club level with Lille OSC.
Depending on availability, Herdman’s plan might change but he has able deputies in the likes of Mark-Anthony Kaye or even the emerging Ismaël Koné for Eustáquio, and the breakthrough Dayne St. Clair for Borjan.
Belgium Preview: Lukaku Heartbreak for the Red Devils.
Canada is not the only team with injury worries before the opening match, as Belgium had just learned that their star striker Romelu Lukaku was going to miss out on the first two opening games versus Canada and Morocco.
Belgium will still have significant fire-power even his Lukaku’s absence, with backup striker Michy Batshuayi of Fenerbache a viable option, and Eden Hazard, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard, and Leandro Trossard ever-dangerous on the wings. We will see if Roberto Martinez will opt for Belgium’s staple 3-4-2-1 to potentially match Canada’s formation, or switch to a 3-4-3 with the generational Kevin De Bruyne as a false nine.
Romelu Lukaku will MISS the first two games of the group stage against Canada and Morocco 🇧🇪
📰 via Sky Sport pic.twitter.com/bMCDTL8pDR
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) November 20, 2022
Belgium Predicted Line-up and Tactics for when CanMNT Face Belgium
A Potential 3-4-2-1 Belgium
The 3-4-2-1 is what got them through qualifying undefeated (6-2-0), and so is definitely their strongest formation. If Batshuayi takes up the Lukaku role, it would allow Belgium to play with familiar tactics, allowing Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and De Bruyne to dictate the attack with width from Thomas Meunier and Timothy Castagne. Belgium is a possession-based team, and with Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans the dictators in the middle, it will be tough for Canada to get a good handle in the game for long spells.
Perhaps their greatest weakness is the aging back-line. Vertonghen and Alderweireld are now in their twilight years and no longer have that pace to be able to keep up with the likes of Davies, Tajon Buchanan, and Samuel Adekugbe. The absence of Lukaku, however, might have Roberto Martinez want to tweak his plans a bit to a 3-4-3 and have De Bruyne take up that false-nine role, dropping deep and feeding Eden Hazard and the incoming and in-form Leandro Trossard of Brighton. Either way, this Belgium squad will have the resources to bring the fight to any team in the tournament.
Belgium with Everything to Fight For, Canada with Nothing to Lose
In the face of the opening match, Belgium has the pressure of finally winning a major trophy with this aging “Golden Generation,” and that might prove to either be their best motivation to succeed or the reason they crumble in this competition. On the other hand, Canada has nothing to lose after already gaining the incredible achievement of reaching the World Cup, and this fearlessness might be their X-factor for their upcoming campaign. In the end, it will all depend on what happens on the pitch in those first 90 minutes.
The game between these two teams will kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. It will be televised live in Canada on TSN and also will be televised live on RDS in Quebec.
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