There is no first world Cup final for the Belgian red devils, as the defensive French team makes the best of the corner second half to take it 1-0 in St. Petersburg. The disappointment was huge in Belgium, who will now have to play the match for third place against England or Croatia. Was this a unique opportunity for Belgium to make it to the final, or will there be more opportunities? Only time will tell.
Belgium missed winger Thomas Meunier, a crucial player in coach Roberto Martinez’ offensive system, and played with midfielder Moussa Dembele instead. Belgium’s Red Devils played a strong first half, but found it difficult to find an opening in the strong French defence. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard came quite close twice, but it was 0-0 at the break.
Soon after the break, it was French defender Samuel Umtiti who headed home a corner kick, their only chance of the second half (picture below). Belgium needed to score a goal now and time started ticking, but France stood strong and Belgium never really got into their usual game, as France gave them no space to play. Belgium should have got a free kick just outside the French penalty area when Hazard was fouled, but didn’t get one.
“It’s a pity that we loose against France, because they were not better than us.”
France stood strong, had some chances in the dying minutes when Belgium took risks, while the Belgian team had no answer to the French block: 1-0. Belgium has scored 14 goals in 5 games so far at this World Cup, but failed to score for the first time in a game. Deschamps had clearly done his homework well, and knew how to stop the Belgians, while Martinez’ tactics didn’t work out as well as against Brazil this time.
The Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told reporters after the match: “It’s a pity we loose against France, because I didn’t have the feeling they were better than us. They played a negative kind of football”, he referred to the defensive French tactics. “But we also need to look at ourselves. We should have done more in attack, but it was hard.”
Especially in the second half, Belgium could (should) have done more, and football pundits didn’t understand why Martinez substituted Marouane Fellaini, who is always capable of scoring a goal with the head.