Kylian Mbappe stood out while Romelu Lukaku and Karim Benzema made their mark as France came from behind to beat Belgium 3-2 on Thursday.
It was a classic game of two halves, as Belgium were the better of the two sides in the opening period before France took charge post the interval. Having said that, France and Belgium did conjure up a few half chances as well when under the pump in the respective half.
The opener came in the 37th minute after a lot of cagey action, with Yannick Carrasco scoring from an acute angle. Shortly after, Belgium were two to the good as Romelu Lukaku rifled the ball into the roof of the net after being sent through by Kevin De Bruyne. France, though, would claw their way back after the interval.
Les Bleus first pulled a goal back from out of nowhere, with Karim Benzema scoring a marvellous close range goal before Kylian Mbappe converted from the spot after Antoine Griezmann had earned a penalty for a foul from Youri Tielemans. A dramatic final quarter of the game ensued, as Lukaku thought he had won it for Belgium only to be denied by VAR with an offside call.
Only moments later, France would then complete their comeback, as Theo Hernandez unleashed a fiercely driven shot that Thibaut Courtois could do nothing about to send his side into the UEFA Nations League final. Belgium will now face off against Italy to vie for third place in the tournament after Spain beat the Azzurri on Wednesday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both sets of players.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
A frustrating evening for Courtois, who made three straightforward saves but also conceded three goals. Having said that, the Real Madrid goalkeeper was powerless to deny club teammates Karim Benzema and dived the wrong way when Kylian Mbappe equalised. Could have perhaps done a bit better to deny Theo Hernandez, but the shot was powerfully struck in all fairness.
Toby Alderweireld: 6/10
The Belgium defenders had their fair share of problems up against Mbappe, although the veteran defender did make some important clearances to keep the danger away from Courtois. Completed all but four of his attempted passes to ensure a smooth build-up from the back.
Jason Denayer: 6/10
The best of the three Belgium centre-backs, Denayer made some important contributions in crunch moments. However, the 26-year-old just could not close down Benzema for the first goal that France scored, which brings his rating down a little.
Jan Vertonghen: 5/10
Barely tested in the first half, Vertonghen did enough to keep Belgium in control. However, he was given a lot to worry about by Mbappe all through the second period, and he lost six of the 11 duels he contested. The lack of pace in his legs is worrying.
Timothy Castagne: 5/10
Usually a reliable outlet on the flanks, Castagne just did not have the end product in him nor the willingness to send in dangerous cross for France’s centre-backs to deal with. Ought to have tracked Theo Hernandez in the build-up to the match-winning goal.
Axel Witsel: 4/10
Witsel was not tested much in the first half, when Belgium were on top. However, he was under the pump as soon as France wrested control, with Les Bleus overrunning him and Youri Tielemans with alarming regularity. Has to do better.
Youri Tielemans: 4/10
A game to forget for Tielemans, who gave the penalty away bizarrely after swiping at Antoine Griezmann’s right leg. When on the ball, he did enough to keep Belgium in control, but he did not bring out his creative side on this game. Struggled off the ball at times and was outplayed by Paul Pogba in the second half.
Yannick Carrasco: 7/10
Deployed as the left wing-back, Carrasco showcased his tenacious side on Thursday against France. Needed a slice of luck for his goal but he did deserve it after tricking a couple of French defenders out of position. A lively presence on the left flank, although he was not tested much from Benjamin Pavard.
Kevin De Bruyne: 7/10
De Bruyne has blown hot and cold early in the season but on Thursday, he pulled the strings well for Belgium whenever the Red Devils were on top. Also deserved a goal at the end of a fine ghosting run in the first half only to be denied by the brilliant Hugo Lloris. Set Romelu Lukaku up for his powerful goal.
Kevin de Bruyne has created the same number of chances (4) as the entire France team.
2 assists in three minutes for the Manchester City magician. ? pic.twitter.com/ZKc6kA9cye
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 7, 2021
Romelu Lukaku: 7/10
Once again, Lukaku was one of the standout performers for Belgium. The experienced striker held the ball smartly to bring his teammates into the game while also playing as many as three key passes. However, it was his brilliant dummy and the thumping finish that was one of the moments of the game. Unlucky to be on the losing side.
Eden Hazard: 6/10
One of the better performances of recent times from Hazard, who was nimble on his feet and played his part in the opener while carrying some threat in the first half. However, he is still well off his best levels, which was even more evident in the second half, when he was largely anonymous.
Hans Vanaken: 6/10
On for Tielemans, Vanaken completed each of the passes he attempted while winning the only duel he contested as well. However, more creativity would have been welcome.
Leandro Trossard: 5/10
Barely did anything of note after replacing Eden Hazard.
Michy Batshuayi: N/A
A late introduction, Batshuayi barely had time to make an impact late on.
Hugo Lloris: 7/10
He might have conceded two goals but Lloris played a major role in ensuring Belgium had not won the game in the first half itself. His stop to deny Kevin De Bruyne from point-blank range was an otherworldly save and he made a few other key stops to keep France in the game.
Idk how many times we gotta say it, Lloris is so underratedpic.twitter.com/zrcCuJHviX
— alfie. (@28NdombeIe) October 7, 2021
Jules Kounde: 6/10
Back in the side for the first time since being sent off last month for a horrendous challenge, Kounde held his own for the most part but also suffered a few nervy moments, which largely came at the onset of the game. Still has some way to go before making one of the centre-back slots his own.
Raphael Varane: 6/10
A decent enough performance by Varane, who grew into the game as the minutes passed by. Was given a tough time by Lukaku in the opening period but did well to keep the Belgium striker quiet for the most part after the interval. Won a couple of duels and made two interceptions while also producing a fine block.
Lucas Hernandez: 5/10
Tricked brilliantly by Lukaku in the build-up to his goal, Lucas Hernandez had no clue what happened around him, leaving acres of space for the Belgium striker to score. Reliable with the ball at his feet but not as dependable when off it, uncharacteristically so.
Benjamin Pavard: 5/10
Not the best of performances from Pavard, who is better suited as a traditional right-back than as a wing-back. Ought to have done better to snuff out the space for Carrasco when Belgium took the lead and did not provide the right kind of outlet on his forays down the right flank. Tried one flashy finish in the first half but it was shot straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Paul Pogba: 7/10
A game of two halves for Pogba, who was all over the place in the opening period and just could not get to grips with the tempo that Belgium set. However, he bossed the midfield post the break and ended up creating more chances than every other France player in the game (3) while also putting in the hard yards off the ball, completing three tackles and winning seven duels.
Paul Pogba's game by numbers vs. Belgium:
90.5% pass accuracy
3 chances created (most)
3 tackles (=most)
3 long balls attempted
2 long balls completed
2 aerial duels won (most)
Bossed midfield in the second half. ? pic.twitter.com/8yv9PALPBK
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 7, 2021
Adrien Rabiot: 5/10
A game to forget for Rabiot, who completed almost every pass that he attempted but lacked ideas to make anything happen from the middle of the park. Cannot be faulted for a lack of effort but needs to do more with the ball at his feet.
Theo Hernandez: 7/10
Making only his second appearance for France, Theo Hernandez justified his selection with a superb goal to win the game for his team. Showed top notch work ethic to help out defensively but was not given enough opportunities to unleash his trademark bursting runs into the opposition half. Still, made his mark with that strike and could now get a run of starts.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
This was a game that once again showed that Griezmann is nowhere near his best levels, although he did carry a fair bit of threat. The end product, though, is severely missing at the moment, which is something he needs to address. Movement still as good as anyone in the world, as it is that trait that saw him earning the penalty which was converted by Kylian Mbappe.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
The first half was a bit of a struggle for Benzema, as he was largely anonymous, as Belgium retained control of the game. However, a moment of genius saw the Real Madrid talisman pull a goal back from absolutely nothing as he danced his way around before beating Thibaut Courtois. Just brilliant.
Kylian Mbappe: 8/10
A clear standout in this game, Mbappe ran the show for France when they were in the ascendancy. Was always a nuisance for the opposition defenders with his pace and trickery and found Benzema before he scored the opener for France before converting from the spot after Antoine Griezmann was brought down by Tielemans. Showed just why Real Madrid are desperate to sign him.
— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) October 7, 2021
Aurelien Tchouameni: N/A
On for Rabiot, Tchouameni increased the tempo of the game with his introduction but could not finish off a shot from the edge of the Belgium box.
Leo Dubois: N/A
Introduced in place of Pavard, Dubois did not see much of the ball late on.
Jordan Veretout: N/A
A late introduction, Veretout helped see the game out.