Belgian own-goal sends France into Euro 2024 quarters

Kolo Muani celebrating his after the goal in the 85th minute.

Jan Vertonghen’s own-goal in the 85th-minute propelled France into the quarter-finals, as they edged Belgium 1-0 in a Euro 2024 round-of-16 clash at Dusseldorf Arena. France, who had underwhelmed in the group stage, delivered an improved performance.

Despite squandering numerous chances, Les Bleus finally broke the deadlock when Kolo Muani, who had narrowly missed a winning goal against Argentina in the 2022 World Cup final, redeemed himself after coming off the bench in the second half. He did not quite time his shot. But it took a deflection off Verthonghen and gave the Belgian goalkeeper no chance. Having said that, Muani made a big difference after coming in as a substitute.

Belgium coach Dominico Tedesco opted to start with Louis Openda and Yannick Carresco instead of Youri Tielemans and Leandro Trossard. Meanwhile, Didier Deschamps made tactical adjustments, reinstating Antoine Griezmann to the starting line-up after benching him in the last group stage match.

Deschamps might have felt frustrated with the opportunities his team missed in the first half, despite taking 14 shots. Belgium, led by Kevin De Bruyne, made some forays but failed to breach the resolute French defence.

After a goalless first half, France intensified their efforts, showing urgency, as the game progressed. Early in the second half, Aurelien Tchouameni’s long-range effort aimed for the far post was blocked by Koen Casteels. In the 54th minute, Adrien Rabiot tried to find Marcus Thuram with a lofted pass, but Casteels intercepted.

Kylian Mbappe showcased his skill, dribbling past three Belgian players and narrowly missing the target with a shot from the edge of the box. In the 71st minute, Romelo Lukaku tested Mike Maignan with a penetrating run from the left, but the goalkeeper closed the angle at the near post and denied him the opportunity.

With the match heading towards a tense conclusion, another Mbappe shot flew wide of the post with 10 minutes remaining. However, five minutes later, Muani took that decisive shot towards goal following a well-concerted French move. The deflection off Vertonghen wrong-footed Casteels, sending French supporters into jubilation and ending Belgium’s hopes of securing their first major title.