Canada manager John Herdman told his team they are “going to ‘F’ Croatia” in their next 2022 World Cup group game after losing the opener 1-0 to Belgium on Wednesday evening.
The Red Devils came in as favourites against Canada, but were made to work extremely hard to keep a determined opponent at bay.
Thibaut Courtois made a fine save from a penalty to deny Alphonso Davies and Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal of the game as Belgium got a narrow win.
“I’m proud of the performance,” Herdman said after the game. “But you need to take three points in your first game. We had an opportunity tonight to be top of the group, that was the mission, but we missed it.
“But I am proud of the performance, the lads put a shift in and showed they can live on this stage.
“They made the fans proud and made them feel like they belong here.”
Speaking to TSN he added “We’re gonna go and ‘F’ Croatia, that’s as simple as it gets. That’s our next mission now.”
As for his opposite number Roberto Martinez, he admitted his team were second-best but was thrilled that they managed to pull out an opening win in Group F.
“Today was such a difficult game, Canada were better than us.” Martinez admitted after the game.
“They were very clear in what they wanted to do, they’ve got a lot of pace, a lot of directness, and we had to show another side of our play.
“I’m delighted because we won the game through grit, experience, and the quality of our goalkeeper, who kept us in the game. The victory today was more important than a victory when you play well.
“Canada deserved to be better than us but the result reflected the things we had to do and the way we defended for each other.”
Martinez came into the tournament under pressure after a difficult Euro 2020 but he was still optimistic despite the poor performance in the opening game.
“It’s a win. We need to play better, we need to grow,” he added. “We’ve been here five days. This is a tournament where you need to grow with each game.
“You’ve seen many top teams losing games because this tournament makes you develop and grow as the tournament goes on. If you can win games, it’s an incredible advantage.
“We need to be realistic, we need to appreciate the win. We didn’t play well, that’s clear, but when you can win without playing well there is a lot to build on.”