Kevin De Bruyne poked fun at his own man of the match after Belgium’s unconvincing World Cup win over Canada on Wednesday night.
The Belgian world no. 2 struggled against lively opposition and owed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois a saved penalty that helped the 1-0 win.
Manchester City star De Bruyne had little impact as part of a disjointed Belgium midfield and was stunned by his post-match price tag.
“No, I don’t think I played a great game,” said a miserable-looking De Bruyne after learning of his award. “I don’t know why I got the trophy – maybe it’s because of my name.”
Belgium’s aging side have at times been outplayed by Canada, who have yet to collect a point or score in four World Cup games – including the three games since their debut in 1986.
This should have been the game where the Canadians broke that run. Canada star Alphonso Davies missed the best chance when his penalty was blocked by Courtois, one of 21 shots compared to Belgium’s nine.
“They showed tonight that they belong here,” Canada coach John Herdman said of his players.
A great moment in the 44th minute finally decided the game. It wasn’t a brilliant through ball from De Bruyne or a labyrinthine dribbling from Eden Hazard, but a simple long ball from centre-back Toby Alderweireld over the top of the Canadian defence.
It split the defense and Michy Batshuayi ran through, rebounding twice before deflecting a left footed foot into the far post.
“Glad we won the game without being ourselves,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. Martinez said it was his team’s worst performance on a technical level since he took charge more than six years ago.
“But was it the worst game?” he added. “No. Because it’s a win.”
Six players in their thirties were in Belgium’s starting XI, four of whom have more than 100 caps. Courtois and De Bruyne could go into triple figures at this World Cup, which looks like one last cheer for this group of players often dubbed the ‘golden generation’.
The absence of Romelu Lukaku – a prolific goalscorer and a great attacking presence – is a major blow for Martinez as Batshuayi fails to impress as his back-up apart from his well-made goal.
Lukaku, who injured his left thigh, could potentially miss the entire group stage.
As De Bruyne’s passing was unusually poor, the best plays came from an agile and attacking Canadian team in front of their raucous, Maple Leaf-waving fans.
Davies excelled with his driving runs from left-back but ruined his performance with his mistake from the point. Herdman had no complaints about Davies executing the kick, despite Jonathan David usually using them for French club Lille.
“It’s a big moment for any player. They carry the weight of a nation,” Herdman said. “If you have an $85 million player, let him pick up the ball and take it.”
Canada had 14 shots in the first half alone, the most by a team at the World Cup without a goal in 16 years.
Additional coverage by AP