Another ‘golden generation’ has fallen short of glory.
Belgium won’t be playing in the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup yet again, no thanks to a 1-0 loss to France in the first semifinal on Tuesday night.
They won’t be going home yet however, there’s still a consolation tussle for third place with the loser of Wednesday’s other semifinal between England and Sweden. No need to ask, it’s not a perfect end to a good start.
With their heads down in disappointment, here are four take-aways from the party they failed to light up:
Martinez’s tactics backfire:
It was a short but enduring night for Belgium. Ninety minutes didn’t even seem enough for them in Saint Petersburg. That’s a team that has won all five previous matches and scored fourteen goals in the process. Finding one to at least rescue the night against France became a problem. Why?
Martinez was indefinite with his set up, unlike what the team showed against Brazil. Lukaku and Hazard were upfront as usual, but De Bruyne who was lined on the left wing back got busy as the driver and propeller of the attack. Chadli on the other side was immobile, leaving Dembele at the mercy of a fruitless struggle to win the ball.
In the knockout, Martinez showed his ability to respond to games with tactical changes, but this time, he didn’t have an answer.
France grind out another result:
Despite the bunch of talent, France still look boring. Truth is anything more or less would have cost them.
This time it was more important. All efforts the players have put into their previous games would have become wasted if France didn’t stick to their script.
Les Blues have relied on the likes of Griezman and Mbappe to win games, an unlikely hero showed up out of the blues in Umtiti against Belgium.
The goalkeeping showmanship:
Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois were the reasons there was just one goal in that game.
From the blast of the whistle, both goalkeepers swung into action and were kept busy till the last seconds.
Their jobs were contrasting. Both of them ensured everything was on level terms at halftime, the Tottenham man, in the second half protected France’s lead even when his shield was splited while the Chelsea shotstopper kept the scoreline slim.
The Two Number 9s:
As much as big players came to the party for France and Belgium, Olivier Giroud for the Les Blues and Romelo Lukaku for the Red Devils left their go with the dancing shoes.
It was the usual case for the Frenchman, he made his usual threatening contributions but the ball didn’t just become his friend. Giroud could rue his blocked attempts, but he certainly could have done better with his chances. He still remains in the tournament without a shot on goal.
For Lukaku, however, he was rather anonymous despite the domineering presence of Belgium. He seems to have gone on a break since he reached four goals.
So much for a big striker and Belgium needed a big mentality, not just the size.