A stoppage-time strike from Theo Hernández completed a remarkable comeback, as the World champions fought back from 2-0 down at HT to claim a 3-2 victory and a place in the UEFA Nations league final. The dramatic victory also extended ‘Les Bleus’ remarkable 40-year unbeaten record against the ‘Red Devils’.
In the lead up to this colossal UEFA Nations League semi-final, Didier Deschamps claimed he didn’t fear Belgium, however his mind may have been changed inside the opening five minutes, when a lightning-fast break saw Kevin De Bryune fire a volley goalwards after capitalising upon Jules Koundé’s defensive miscue, but Hugo Lloris’ fine save saw ‘Les Bleus’ escape punishment. Belgium continued to mount pressure and Roberto Martinez’s side were handed a boost in their hunt for silverware when Yannick Carrasco cut in from the left before his effort wrong-footed Lloris to give Belgium the lead.
Disappointment on the biggest stage has arguably tarnished the reputation of Belgiums ‘golden generation’ but when Romelu Lukaku rifled into the roof of the net five minutes before HT, it appeared Belgium were well on their way to a mouth-watering final against Spain. However, France were determined not to give their neighbours an easy passage to Sunday’s showpiece event and reaped the rewards of their early second-half pressure when the fleet-footed Kylian Mbappé danced through the Belgium defence before teeing up Karim Benzema, who swivelled and rifled home past Thibaut Courtois.
Benzema’s strike breathed new life into Deschamps’ side and with Belgium visibly shaken, France capitalised from the penalty spot after VAR deemed Youri Tielemans to have felled Antoine Griezmann in the box. Having missed the decisive penalty in France’s defeat to Switzerland in Euro 2020, Mbappé stepped forward and exorcised his demons to fire his side back on level terms.
After Lukaku had an effort chalked out at one end, a visibly crestfallen Belgium were hit with a sucker-punch in stoppage time when Hernández thundered home his first ever France goal to bring an end to a thrilling encounter and leave the ‘Red Devils’ reflecting on what could have been.