Canada suffers against No. 2 Belgium ahead of World Cup opener in Qatar

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dated: 2022-11-20 02:20:01 .

Canada manager John Herdman had a bleak medical on Saturday as goalkeeper Milan Borjan and midfielder Stephen Eustaquio served alongside star Alphonse Davies as question marks for their World Cup opener against No. 2 Belgium.

Davies arrived in Qatar on Friday night after receiving treatment at Bayern Munich for a thigh strain sustained in a Bundesliga match against Hertha Berlin on November 6. Although Bayern said Davies’ participation in Qatar was “not at risk”, he has not played since.

“My mission is to make sure he plays in this World Cup, it’s a childhood dream for him,” Herdman said. “And not putting him in a position where he’s not safe.”

“But I have to say that Belgium is at another level, we haven’t played against a team of that level since our game against Brazil [a 3-2 loss in 2008]. So you need players like Alphonso, whether that starts, [coming] from the bank,” he added. “So we’re doing everything we can.”

Herdman said Eustaquio, perhaps Canada’s most influential midfielder, is “day to day” dealing with muscle soreness that occurred in training earlier this week.

“It’s a different calculation. That’s the algorithm we’re trying to work out now, is he hitting his targets?” Herdman said. “It’s really the math — what can he tolerate now through these next three days of training to show he’s ready to go.

“If he doesn’t have a starting position, he will definitely come in. But there is no guarantee that Stephen Eustaquio will be in the starting 11 against Belgium at the moment.”

Borjan, on the other hand, “felt something in his stomach” during Thursday’s 2-1 win against the Japanese No. 24 in Dubai, Herdman said.

“Just as a precaution,” Herdman said.

“[We’re] get ready for fall. Next man,’ he added with an obviously nervous laugh. “We are done [World Cup] Qualification campaign and it was like that. We never seem to get what people would say on paper that your Canada’s best team. It’s just natural at this point. We’ll see.”

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Eustaquio is Canada’s creative force in midfield and has recently been at his best for FC Porto in Portugal.

Borjan is Canada’s No. 1 goaltender and the team leader with 68 caps for Canada, ranked 41st. In the absence of the injured Maxime Crepeau, his reserves are talented but little international with Dayne St Clair (two games) and the James Pantemis Experience yet to play.

Canada Soccer did not make any of the players in question available on Saturday.

Herdman has to balance the risk-reward factor with the trio. Against Belgium, Canada’s top-ranked opponent in Group F, on Wednesday, is it worth the risk for anyone when another setback could see them out of the next games on Nov. 27 against No. 12 Croatia and No. 22 Morocco on Dec. 1?

Herdman said that while Davies was able to engage in some contact in practice, “he’s still looking forward to hitting his top speed.”

“He hasn’t hit that top speed yet, and when you have a hamstring injury, that’s always a crucial moment. Then the hamstring muscles are pushed to their limits.”

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Herdman noted that in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying (Canada won the eight-nation tournament 8-2-4), his team showed they could win without Davies. The Bayern Munich star missed seven of those games due to illness, and Canada went 5-2-0 in his absence, with one of the losses coming when Canada had already secured qualification.

“So it’s not something I lose sleep over,” Herdman said. “I just believe that there is a group of people who come together in such a way that they have to do what is asked.”

But later in a press conference, he admitted with a laugh: “Yeah, I still wake up in a cold sweat and I’m amazed.”

All eyes were on Davies as the 22-year-old from Edmonton left the Canadian training facility, located at a sports club about 25 minutes’ drive north of Doha. Davies coolly displayed some ball skills in the sweltering heat as he waited for the official start of training, which came after the media had taken him away.

His teammates playfully welcomed him as the warm-up portion came to a close, allowing him a series of friendly but firm punches/punches. Herdman played his part by taking the ball out of Davies’ hands to catapult it down the man tunnel.

It was 29 degrees Celsius, felt like 32 degrees for the morning session. The light breeze was welcome.

The players encountered lush fields, a wonder of a garden in the desert. Some climbed on exercise bikes under the canopy. Others took refuge in a mini field house next to the court before returning to kick the ball.

The warm-up music – there was a Jamaican dancehall theme with a playlist that included War Lord’s “Bounty Killer” and Cham’s “Goodas Gal” – died down as noon prayer time brought an even scarier soundtrack.

The players stopped the game and went to the adjacent field, pausing out of respect.

As a summary of the warm-up, defender Doneil Henry ran separately with the trainer. Henry, who has 44 caps for Canada, was injured before the 2-2 draw against No. 85 Bahrain on Nov. 11 and was not included in the World Cup squad. He is with the team in a non-playing role.

Saturday was the fourth practice for the Canadians in Doha and the first after the victory over Japan.

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French star Benzema on tour

Defending champions France, World Cup hopefuls, have been dealt a serious blow with the news that forward Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the tournament after tearing a muscle in his left thigh in training on Saturday.

“Karim Benzema has been eliminated from the World Cup,” the French Football Federation (FFF) said. “After injuring the quadriceps in his left thigh, the Real Madrid striker has been forced to withdraw from the World Cup.”

Benzema was attending his first full training session with Les Bleus when he was forced to leave after suffering pain in his left thigh, the FFF said.

“He went to the hospital for an MRI [clinic] in Doha, which unfortunately confirmed the rupture,” FFF said, adding that he would need three weeks to recover.

“I am very sad for Karim who made this World Cup a big goal,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

Benzema has barely played in recent weeks and this was his first full training session with Les Bleus.

Since winning the Ballon d’Or last month, Benzema has played less than 30 minutes for Madrid after coming on as a substitute in the Champions League game.

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Canada suffers against No. 2 Belgium ahead of World Cup opener in Qatar

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