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Brave but insufficient, the Red Devils bow out to France

Domenico Tedesco’s game plan worked until it didn’t. The overall superior French team eventually found the breakthrough and eliminated the inaccurate Red Devils.

A response was expected from both Domenico Tedesco and the Red Devils for this round of 16 match, and the coach did not disappoint, daring to respond tactically with a cheeky formation to match the French: a 4-4-2 with Openda and Lukaku, but especially with… Onana and De Bruyne in midfield.

Not good news for the neutral supporter, as the Red Devils let the Blues come at them… and the Blues don’t open up. We can quickly feel that Jules Koundé can put Theate in difficulty, but apart from long-range shots that are not very dangerous, France is feeling their way around.

A Belgian spell, several French

The first real chance is even Belgian: Doku wins a good free kick, and Kevin De Bruyne strikes at Maignan who pushes it away with difficulty (24th). Belgium play with long balls that are not very precise, but a Doku-Openda combination offers a new chance to Carrasco (27th).

The Blues, frankly not pushed by their fans unlike the Red Devils (and that was the first positive observation of the evening), are however finding their feet at a trot: Koundé offers himself yet another overflow and delivers a caviar on the head of Marcus Thuram, who puts it wide (34th).

Faes had lost his duel, but fortunately the Leicester defender was there on another Mbappé overflow a little later. The last quarter of an hour of the first half is a pure attack-defence in favour of the French, and a final shot from Tchouaméni almost misses us leading at the break.

Casteels saves the Red Devils again

France come back onto the pitch much better than the Red Devils and make the ball flow more smoothly: it takes the first real intervention from Koen Casteels on a deflected shot from Tchouaméni to prevent the opener very early (49th). The danger comes from midfield, as Mbappé may well strive, but he does not find the frame, either after a dribble or a cross from Koundé.

But the Red Devils do not give up: if Lukaku is having a nightmare match, good pressing from Openda allows KDB to launch Yannick Carrasco and forces Théo Hernandez to make a desperate clearance celebrated like a goal (61st). Despite that, it is Openda that Tedesco takes off, for Mangala.

The coach almost has to be right immediately when it is an infiltration by this same Orel Mangala who goes looking for Lukaku, whose first shot on target finds Mike Maignan (71st). After three quarters of an hour, we are forced to make an observation: this round of 16 is the weakest since the start, between two teams that are not very good at playing and lack ideas.

Belgian regrets

And when you lack ideas, you rely on individuals: Jérémy Doku, who is generally below par tonight, still finds Kevin De Bruyne in space…. and Maignan gets in the way (83rd). Despite Mangala coming on, however, our Red Devils are losing their footing at best: N’golo Kanté and Aurélien Tchouameni are imperious.

It is moreover with Kanté at the helm, always well helped by Griezmann’s incessant and intelligent movements, that Randal Kolo Muani is found in the box. He turns, shoots… and Vertonghen, impeccable until then, deflects into his own net (87th, 1-0). Ten minutes earlier, we had said to ourselves: the one who scores will qualify. Despite a final flurry, imprecise once again, Belgium will not score and will go out. The post-match analysis will determine whether it is with honours or not…

Written by Angel Chioma

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