Belgium’s golden generation just came up short on Tuesday evening as they lost 1-0 to France in the World Cup semi-finals, provoking a prickly response from some of their squad.
Samuel Umtiti headed in the only goal from a second half Antoine Griezmann corner before Les Bleus sat back and absorbed pressure from a Belgium side lacking the cutting edge they had shown in their quarter final-win over Brazil.
It was an impressive show of defensive fortitude as France kept their fourth clean sheet of the tournament to reach Sunday’s final in Moscow, but the sting of the defeat proved too much to take for some of the Belgian players, who voiced their discontent with France’s style of play.
“France was not the best team, they just tried to defend,” goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told beIN Sports. “France played like Panama. They did this during all the tournament, against Uruguay, they scored from a set piece, it’s a shame to see that.”
Eden Hazard provided more attacking threat than any other Belgium player but he also found himself frustrated by France’s setup.
France’s greatest success in the match was the way they marshalled Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder, outstanding against Brazil, was marked out of the game and struggled to link up with Hazard and Lukaku as effectively.
De Bruyne also suggested that France’s performance had been overly defensive, but he admitted that they had done their jobs well.
Asked whether he was annoyed by France’s style, De Bruyne replied (via Sport Witness): “No, I play at City. I play against teams that play so defensively 90% of the time. That is football. What they do, they do well. Both teams have had opportunities. That one goal makes the difference.”
It matters not how you win the World Cup, and France are just 90 minutes away from lifting the trophy for the second time.