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Canada World Cup Player Ratings: Hutchinson turns back clock in heartbreaking loss to Belgium

Richie Laryea starting over Sam Adekugbe, then having Laryea occupy his primary right-back role with Alphonso Davies at left-back, was by far the surprise choice from Canada coach John Herdman.
atiba
Canadian national men's soccer team midfielder Atiba Hutchinson jogs during a training session for a CONCACAF Nations League match against Curacao, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.

Canada huffed and puffed, but couldn't blow the house down.

The men's national team's first FIFA World Cup match in 36 years ended in heartbreak as Belgium edged Canada 1-0 on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, extending the Canadians' long wait for its first tournament goal and victory.

With a few standout performers, here are on-the-whistle player ratings for every Canadian starter.

Ratings are based off a 10-point scale. Anything above a six, the usual average or soccer ratings, is considered solid or better.

Starters

Milan Borjan (goalkeeper): 5/10

There was nothing Milan Borjan could've done to stop Michy Batshuayi's opener. The ball was struck fiercely in open space, which is always tough to read as a goalkeeper.

However, Borjan didn't help himself by retreating toward the goal when the ball over the top looked to be reachable for the Canadian No. 1.

Perhaps it was a reflex to prevent any mishaps he's experienced when coming off his line in the past. Either way, Borjan could've intervened before Batshuayi latched onto Toby Alderweireld's pass.

Richie Laryea (right-back): 7/10

Richie Laryea starting over Sam Adekugbe, then having Laryea occupy his primary right-back role with Alphonso Davies at left-back, was by far the surprise choice from Canada coach John Herdman.

The gamble paid off in terms of Laryea's inclusion. Quick ball progression was a major factor for the Canadians in how they unsettled Belgium, and Laryea was one of the protagonists in that regard.

The Toronto FC defender was brilliant on both sides of the ball, logging three key passes, nearly drew a penalty in the first half and barely conceded any ground to Belgium.

Alistair Johnston (centre-back): 5/10

This was one of Johnston's most disappointing games in a Canadian shirt.

Eden Hazard turned him around early in the game, but Johnston was also burned a few times on the counter. Normally, he's very certain but with no midfield cover around him, he was more exposed than usual.

The CF Montreal man should get a quick shoutout for some of his diagonal switches to launch a few promising Canadian counters, though.

Steven Vitoria (centre-back): 5/10

Vitoria takes the fall for the goal as he failed to deal with Alderweireld's long ball to Batshuayi.

It was an uncharacteristic mistake from Vitoria, who is normally dominant in the air. He didn't put a foot wrong otherwise but deserves a slight deduction for the error.

Kamal Miller (centre-back): 8/10

If it wasn't for Kamal Miller, Belgium might've capitalized on a couple more counterattacks than it did.

Miller completed one tackle, one outstanding block on Batshuayi in the 23rd minute to prevent a certain goal and two recoveries, all in transition.

Considering Miller has occasionally been criticized for lack of pace on the turn, he coped incredibly well with a dangerous Belgian attack.

Alphonso Davies (left-back): 6/10

It was a hit-or-miss performance for Davies.

On one hand, he did register three key passes and attracted a lot of attention from Belgium, thus opening space for teammates.

On the other, the missed penalty stings and will live long in the memory as a "what if?" moment in Canadian soccer.

Atiba Hutchinson (midfielder): 8/10

Talk about turning back the clock.

Atiba Hutchinson turns 40 in February. You'd think he was 20 with the youthful exuberance he was playing with on Wednesday.

Chalk it down to nearly two decades of mostly lean years with the national team and finally profiting.

In 58 minutes, Hutchinson completed 26 of his 30 passes, three of his five defensive duels and a number of recoveries.

Stephen Eustaquio (midfielder): 7/10

The lynchpin of Canada's midfield was everywhere.

From breaking up Belgium's buildup, to weaving through the lines with the ball, Eustaquio showed why he's such a vital piece of the national team.

After 81 minutes, Eustaquio completed an eye-popping 55 of 64 passes. Not bad at all.

Tajon Buchanan (right winger): 4/10

By the end of the match, Tajon Buchanan looked noticeably injured, and it showed.

Buchanan was causing issues as he ran at Belgium's defence, but lacked any killer instinct with his end product. The 23-year-old also got crossed up with his teammates far too often.

Junior Hoilett (forward): 6/10

In terms of Hoilett's energy, he was brilliant. The pressing from the front was aggressive and seemingly stunned Belgium in the first half.

But Hoilett wasn't dragging apart the defenders like he normally does on the dribble and didn't deliver any quality set pieces that he's known for.

Overall, it's a decent grade for Hoilett.

Jonathan David (forward): 4/10

Nobody attempted more shots than Jonathan David (7). On that front, he was engaged and lively.

But there were moments when David could've, and should've, laid off a simple pass for his teammates, such as to Richie Laryea in the first half when he was wide open.

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