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Lamentable Devils scrape through to the last 16, and set up a date with France

The Red Devils could have gone for top spot and a much easier side of the draw with a win. They may have deserved to go out after a shocking performance.

All dressed up as Tintin for this decisive match, the Red Devils were obviously hoping that tonight it would be Goals Galore rather than Tintin in the Land of Regrets. There were two schools of thought: those who were already working out how to avoid the toughest side of the draw, and those who were telling themselves that on a misunderstanding, it could even be Vol 2706 for Brussels.

At kick-off, Belgium were already qualified (and in second place). A bit jittery at the start of the match, they nevertheless created the first chance, against a Ukraine team without Mudryk and Tsygankov and who had clearly come to defend. De Bruyne’s first break found Lukaku, who lost his one-on-one with Trubin (7th).

Tintin on the cheap

Sitting back in their own half, Ukraine sent out arrows on the counter and took advantage of inexplicable spaces in the Belgian midfield and defence. Roman Yaremchuk took advantage of this to alert Casteels (20th), before a Faes ball loss offered a shot this time to his teammate Dovbyk (21st).

The same Dovbyk, found by a pass into the gap left by Onana and Castagne, nutmegged Faes again, but made the wrong choice – and Sudakov shot well over (27th).

Belgian play was stereotyped. Only a vicious free-kick from KDB found the back of Trubin’s net (33rd). Worse, the biggest chance then fell to Ukraine, when a combination down the middle found Yaremchuk. The ex-Bruges player then missed his pass to Dovbyk (42nd).

The temple of sleep

Somehow, it managed to get even worse in the second half. Those who had suffered through the France and England matches the previous day could not be any kinder to our Devils on Wednesday: nothing worked, the ball went round without ideas – blocked shots, missed passes and harmless corners.

Only, in the 58th minute, a dribble from Jérémy Doku finally managed to set something alight… but it was followed, as too often, by an inaccurate final touch. Tedesco decided to make changes, Trossard was booed off (62nd). And if bringing on Carrasco in his place was a surprise, it was the ex-Colchonero who alerted Trubin with a relay with Lukaku for a first scare (74th).

But the scares were then for the Belgian fans: Artem Dovbyk, set up for a duel with Faes, accelerated and forced Casteels into another save. The top scorer in La Liga caused more panic a few minutes later, hitting the back of the net (78th). Worse: from a corner, Koen Casteels dropped a ball and had a big fright (83rd).

The end of the match was played in a suffocating atmosphere: one goal, and the Devils would be top of the group with a clear path; one goal for the opposition, and they would be out. Ukraine took risks, opened up, but neither De Bruyne nor Bakayoko, who finally came on, could force the issue. Even Lukaku, who had a poor game, was booed by his own fans when he came off. Like all his teammates at the final whistle of a match that may have broken something between the Devils and their supporters.

Written by Angel Chioma

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