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02/07/24 | 10:14 am

Euro 2024: Late own goal gives France 1-0 win over tame Belgium

An 85th-minute deflected shot by Randal Kolo Muani, listed as a Jan Vertonghen own goal, gave France a nervy 1-0 win over a disappointing Belgium on Monday and sent them into the quarter-finals despite another poor show by their misfiring forwards.

France made most of the running in a cagey game but were reckless with their finishing, until a nice combination of passes, finished off by N’Golo Kante, finally created space for substitute Kolo Muani to turn and bundle a mishit shot in off the leg of Vertonghen and leave goalkeeper Koen Casteels wrong-footed.

France will now meet the winner of Monday’s match between Portugal and Slovenia in the quarter-finals in Hamburg on Friday.

It was a fittingly scruffy decider for an underwhelming game and means that France still have yet to score in open play at the tournament, recording two own goals and a Kylian Mbappe penalty across their four games.

Various combinations have been tried up front, while midfielders and defenders also caught the bug on Monday with some wild attempts, but coach Didier Deschamps, unsurprisingly, preferred to focus on the positives.

“We’ve always got the capacity to score more. It’s been like this for us since the start of the Euros but it doesn’t mean we can’t score. We don’t want this to be a psychological barrier,” he said.
Seeking to become the first man to win the World Cup and European Championship both as player and coach, Deschamps knows better than most that it’s not how you play, but how far you go that matters when it comes to tournaments.

“We did a lot of good things. We have to savour it. We’re in the quarter finals, they’re going home,” he said. “It’s a good habit.”

Belgium, their golden generation long turned back into base metal, limp out early of yet another tournament and can have no complaints after showing a shocking lack of ambition for a team with so much talent.

It was a meeting between officially the second (France) and third (Belgium) best teams in the world, but after both edged into the knockout stage managing only two goals apiece from their three games, both looked extremely cautious in attack for most of it.

Belgium clearly had a plan to take any speed out of the game, playing at less than walking pace at times, with Kevin de Bruyne often operating just in front of his back four.

The only decent chance of the first half came for France after 34 minutes when Jules Kounde whipped in a curling cross that recalled striker Marcus Thuram headed wide.
Aurelien Tchouameni forced Koen Casteels into his first save of the day soon after the break, while ever-lively Mbappe miskicked a decent chance as France began to put some passes together.

A rare Belgian thrust was cut short by a brilliant Theo Hernandez tackle just as Yannick Carrasco was about to pull the trigger and Romelu Lukaku and De Bruyne then brought good saves from Mike Maignan.

France were in the ascendancy but the poor finishing that has dogged their campaign continued with William Saliba and Mbappe both blazing wildly over before Kolo Muani’s decisive intervention.

“We’re enjoying this, we pushed hard, we had a lot of attempts but we were missing the target,” said Kolo Muani, who was inches away from national hero status in the 2022 World Cup final until Argentine keeper Emi Martinez got a toe to what would have been his winning goal.

“I got lucky (on the goal), the coach told me to bring my energy, to bring danger with my speed.”

For Belgium, another dispiritingly tame exit adds to their appalling record in the European championship since losing in the final in 1980.

They went out at the quarter-final stage in the last two, having not even qualified for six of the previous seven – failing to get out of the group stage when they were involved as joint hosts in 2000.

“We had chances, not so many. Then they score and there isn’t enough time to react,” said De Bruyne.

“We were defending pretty well but then there’s a deflection. It’s a shame but that’s football.”

(Reuters)

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Last Updated: 19th Jul 2024