(Turin) Resilient and stunning, the French team signed a hair-raising last half-hour to overcome a revengeful Belgium (3-2) and validate their qualification for the final of the League of Nations, thanks to the heroism of their young international Théo Hernandez, Thursday in Turin.
Posted Oct 7, 2021
Dominant for 60 minutes (2-0), Belgium has long believed it could soften the bitter memory of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But the world No.1 selection sank against the world champion, once again, in a much more miraculous scenario than in Saint Petersburg three years ago (1-0)… A revenge that risks establishing even more the rivalry between these two neighboring nations.
“Winning this match compared to the scenario, it once again proves the strength of character of this team”, reacted the coach Didier Deschamps on TF1.
The Blues have built their success with patience, revolt and madness. Karim Benzema reduced the score (62e), Kylian Mbappé smiled again from the penalty spot (69e), and Théo Hernandez, for his second selection, lit up the Juventus stadium with a clear shot at the far post (90e), piercing a helpless Thibaut Courtois.
Spain-France will therefore be the prestigious poster for the final of the second edition of the League of Nations, Sunday evening (8:45 p.m.) in Milan, with a second trophy within reach of Deschamps since taking office in 2012.
It will not be able to replace, nor erase, the missed Euro of the Blues, but it can make it possible to approach the path towards the World Cup-2022 with hope.
Belgium and its golden generation of Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne, are suffering a new disappointment in their quest for an international title: the team led by Roberto Martinez postpones their dreams for a year, all the way to Qatar.
The 20,000 tickets on sale had not all found takers, but the 12,400 fans who came to the Juventus stadium will not forget this crazy encounter: the few hundred French supporters stayed for nearly half an hour singing after the final whistle. Enough to prove, if necessary, that the rivalry born of the Russian World Cup has left its mark.
Mbappé turned off De Bruyne
From the start, a few boos rang out during the hymns on both sides, and the total intensity of the first moments, marked by a high-class save by Hugo Lloris in front of Kevin De Bruyne (4e), showed that the two selections were not there to make up the numbers.
The Mancunian was going to be the man of this first period: constantly found between the lines, ingenious in his passes, “KDB” has long eclipsed the 50e selection of Kylian Mbappé, a record in Blue at only 22 years old, with his two assists, for Yannick Carrasco (37e) and the impressive Romelu Lukaku (41e). The Chelsea striker even believed, at the very end of the match, to offer victory to his people but he was signaled offside (87e).
It was only at the hour mark, when the Belgians finally backed down, that the Parisian found the fault. A decisive pass for Benzema, scorer against his teammate Thibaut Courtois, then a penalty obtained by Griezmann and transformed with authority by the PSG striker, who had scored only once in Blue in the last 11 games.
Mbappé had offered the first goal to Benzema, Benzema offered the second to Mbappé by giving the ball from the penalty to his young partner. A way to let him take responsibility after his missed shot at the Euro against the Swiss.
A way, too, to prove to him that the team supports him, contrary to the impression that Mbappé may have had at the end of the summer competition. A spleen that he shared in the press this week.
This clash of neighbors was also a match between brothers: the brothers Lucas and Théo Hernandez, holders, wore the blue jersey together for the first time, never seen since the Revelli, in 1974.
The siblings will remember this first association for a long time, and Théo now has an appointment at San Siro on Sunday, the stadium of his daily life. For a new reversal?