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What went wrong for Belgium against France

The semi-final between Belgium and France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup was a highly anticipated fixture. Below is the Match Analysis.

Last updated: 11.07.2018
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The semi-final between Belgium and France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup was a highly anticipated fixture. There were two teams that deserved to be in the top 4, thanks to their solid performances throughout the tournament. In a game as pressurizing as a World Cup semi-final, both teams gave it their all but France made it to the Final, courtesy a 1-0 win. A high-voltage fixture as this was bound to have and did end up having everything: powerful shots, stunning saves, last-ditch defending and brilliant passes on both sides, but France showed just enough grit and a sense of calmness on the ball that pulled them through. Below is an analysis of where Belgium lost out in this crunch game.

Firstly, the decision to play Mousa Dembele, who had not featured too frequently in this World Cup, ahead of Dries Mertens, who scored the Red Devils’ first goal in Russia, was a real bummer. And it was even more evident that the move deprived Belgium of some brilliant attacking talent when Mertens repeatedly sent in some dangerous crosses into the box which France struggled to clear. Dembele, on the other hand, was hardly involved in the attacking play and was caught out by the French midfield quite a few times. In addition, he could just not get the ball moving from defense to attack quickly enough, which gave France the time to cover up the open spaces. The ploy was a 50-50 call by Roberto Martinez and there is no doubt of Dembele’s quality on the ball, but unfortunately, it did not pay off on the night.

Second, Belgium’s lack of calmness when in possession after France scored did not help the team any further. Kevin de Bruyne, who was running the Belgium show along with Eden Hazard, made a few poor passes in promising positions and also sent a couple of good chances flying into the stands. Hazard, on the other hand, was repeatedly fouled and was man-marked perfectly by midfielder Paul Pogba, who had a brilliant night. Romelu Lukaku too was kept extremely silent thanks to some watchful defending by Raphael Varane in central defense, while Umtiti bailed out the French defense more than once by snuffing out some dangerous looking balls sent into the box by the likes of Axel Witsel, de Bruyne, and others. Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli had poor outings and could only repeatedly pass the ball back to the defense due to some stoic pressing by the French forwards. France tend to have a cool head and are extremely assured in possession once they take the lead. This has helped the team repeatedly in Russia and no team, be it Argentina, Uruguay or Belgium, has been able to break it and put the defense into a frenzy. Belgium definitely had the talent and pace to do it, but the French were simply wonderful in retaining their lead.

Finally, conceding a goal just 6 minutes into the second half hurt the team psychologically. After a first half in which both sides looked equally matched, a lapse in concentration on Belgium’s part let Samuel Umtiti head in an Antoine Griezmann corner. It is not unknown that the first goal definitely impacts a knockout game, and that was the case here too. The goal sent Belgium into panic mode when a calm head was what was needed most, and a flurry of misplaced passes, mishit shots and towards the end, wide defensive gaps which the French could not exploit thanks to either Thibaut Courtois’ heroics in goal or some last-ditch defending, followed. None of these helped further Belgium’s cause and the Red Devils bowed out after a blistering run in Russia 2018.

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