Monday, July 22, 2024

France take on Belgium


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Dortmund, June 30: France and Belgium meet in the pre-quarterfinals at the European Championship on Monday. The neighbours are the top two European nations in the FIFA rankings – France is at No. 2 and Belgium at No. 3 – but they haven’t been playing like it so far.
The drama surrounding Kylian Mbappé’s broken nose has died down somewhat, though he will still need to wear a protective mask for the match. The France captain’s only goal in his two appearances so far came from the penalty spot against Poland so the striker has some work to do to reach the tournament-high eight goals he got at the last World Cup in Qatar.
There has been some criticism in France of the team’s style of play, in particular its lack of efficiency upfront. France coach Didier Deschamps doesn’t appear too concerned at this stage, even telling disgruntled armchair critics: “If they don’t like it, they can change the channel.” – Disenchantment with Belgium’s performances went up a notch after the 0-0 draw against Ukraine that closed the group stage and left the team in second place, behind Romania, and on a collision course with France. Belgium captain Kevin De Bruyne was leading the players toward the fans gathered behind one of the goals after the match, only to turn away when hearing the loud jeers coming from that end. De Bruyne threw his hands in the air, clearly unhappy with what he was hearing.
The Belgians have been eliminated in the quarterfinals at the past two Euros but will need to improve to even get to that stage this time. They’ll hope for more luck for striker Romelu Lukaku, who has had three goals ruled out by video review and has yet to score.
Belgium’s soccer federation apologized Saturday for a video that appeared on one of its social media channels. A Belgian comedian was on the video and asked who would “kick Mbappé’s shin” during the match, to which Belgium midfielder Amadou Onana replied: “Amadou Onana.” The video has been deleted.France and Belgium met in the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the 2021 Nations League, with the French winning each time.The winner will play Portugal or Slovenia in the quarterfinals.Antoine Griezmann is expected to return to France’s team after being rested against Poland.
Kickoff at 9:30 pm IST. (AP)


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