BEL vs FRA, Euro 2024 round of 16: Belgium, France in head-on clash both battling first round blues

By this stage of the European Championship, favourites France and contenders Belgium would have wanted to be well into their stride and hitting their straps as they enter the knockout stages.

Instead, the neighbours go spluttering into the last 16 and into a head-on collision in Duesseldorf on Monday after both failed to finish top of their first-round group.

France’s much-vaunted attack is suffering from a crisis of confidence and coach Didier Deschamps, usually a steady hand guiding the squad, looks unsure of what his next move will be.

Belgium will have had some motivation sucked out of its cause following an astonishingly hostile reaction from its own supporters after it limped into the next stage of the tournament in Germany.

Despite Wednesday’s draw with Ukraine assuring it progress, it was subjected to loud barracking from its fans and has since closed ranks.

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Captain Kevin De Bruyne did not take kindly to the abuse. His attitude and demeanour will set the tone for the rest of the Belgian side as they look to leave behind them the limp performances from the group stage.

Romelu Lukaku needs to find his scoring touch after a number of missed opportunities in the tournament. His record 85 goals for Belgium does not include any from Euro 2024, and overall he has a poor scoring record at major tournaments.

Few would have envisaged a French forward line failing to score in open play in their opening three matches at the tournament. One of their two goals was a penalty from Kylian Mbappe, the other an own goal from Austria in their opening game.

Deschamps must now decide whether to restore Antoine Griezmann to the line-up and pair him up front with Mbappe.


Griezmann has been a long-time mainstay for Deschamps but was dropped for their last game, a 1-1 draw with Poland, which allowed Austria to emerge unexpected winners of Group D, and also included the Netherlands.

Belgium is France’s oldest and most frequent opponent. The first international for both countries was a 3-3 draw in Brussels 120 years ago.

Belgium lead the win count of 75 past meetings 30-26 but France won the last two — the semifinal at the 2018 World Cup in St. Petersburg and the Nations League semifinal in Turin in October, 2021.

The winner of Monday’s clash at the Duesseldorf Arena will take on Portugal or Slovenia in the quarterfinals. 

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