France hit Belgium late, advance to Euro quarters

Substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s shot forced an own goal five minutes from time to give France a nervy but deserved 1-0 Euro 2024 round-of-16 win over a disappointing Belgium on Monday.

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 Kanté, finally created space for Kolo Muani to bundle his shot in off the leg of Jan Vertonghen.

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

“We’re enjoying this, we pushed hard, we had a lot of attempts but we were missing the target,” Kolo Muani said after the match. “I got lucky [on the goal]. The coach had told me to bring my energy … to bring danger with my speed. I tried to bring some freshness to the game.”

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

France coach Didier Deschamps, unsurprisingly, saw it differently: “It’s beautiful. It was tight, but we enjoyed possession and we had more opportunities.

France players celebrate after scoring a goal against Belgium at the 2024 Euro.


“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.”

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, it’s quite an achievement. We’re in the quarterfinals, they’re going home. It’s a good habit,” Deschamps said.

The matchup — between officially the second (France) and third (Belgium) best teams in the world — lacked shine both limped into the knockout stage via unimpressive final group-stage draws, managing only two goals apiece from their three games.

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 best chance of the first half came for France after 34 minutes when Jules Koundé whipped in a curling cross that recalled striker Marcus Thuram headed wide — and spent the next two minutes berating himself for.

Aurélien Tchouaméni forced Koen Casteels into his first save of the day soon after the break, while ever-lively Mbappé miskicked a decent chance as France began to put some passes together.

A rare Belgian thrust was cut short by a brilliant Theo Hernández 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’s poor finishing continued with William Saliba and Mbappé both blazing over before Kolo Muani struck late on to win it.

Information from Reuters was used in this story.

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