World Cup 2022: Fans in awe after Canada holds its own

Two Canada fans watching the team's first World Cup game at a bar in Toronto
Brandon Simon (left) and Calen Hamelin were impressed by Canada's performance

Canada lost its first Fifa World Cup match in 36 years, but fans are holding their heads high after a surprisingly strong performance against Belgium.

Belgium scored the game's only goal in the first half, beating Canada 1-0.

Even after the loss, the mood among football fans in Toronto, Canada's largest city, was one of awe at midday on Wednesday.

"We can compete with the world's best now," said Anthony Ferrante, a long-time football fan in Canada.

Mr Ferrante gathered with dozens of people to watch Canada's first World Cup game against Belgium at a bar in Toronto's Little Italy, where many wore red and white jerseys and waved Canadian flags of all sizes.

The mood was tense for the first half of the game, especially after a goal by Belgium's Michy Batshuayi in the 44th minute.

But the tenacity displayed by Team Canada gave the Belgian team a tough time throughout, and was enough for Belgium team manager Roberto Martinez to declare after the game that "Canada were better than us".

It's a surprising performance for the 41st ranked team in the world, especially against one of the tournament's top contenders.

Canada holding its own was even more awe-inspiring for fans, who remember that the prospect of their team making it to the World Cup was unthinkable not too long ago.

Mr Ferrante said Wednesday's game was one of the most exciting he's watched of Team Canada, even after closely following their qualifiers in the CONCACAF, where they finished at the top.

"It's not the result we wanted, but we're going to move forward with positive thoughts from here," he said.

For Jonathan Lister, who watched the game with his 13-year-old son Ozzy, Canada's performance was "phenomenal".

"This sets them up super well for the rest of the tournament," Mr Lister said. "I think they got the jitters out and they know they can play, and I think they played incredibly well."

Others relished the thrill of watching Canada on the football world stage for the first time in decades, noting that with a strong performance like this, it is probably only the beginning of what they hope will be a successful franchise.

"There's no expectations here, so this is kind of fun as a fan," said Brandon Simon.

Canada will move on to play Croatia on Sunday and Morocco on 1 December - games that the fans said they can't wait to watch.