Underwhelming France (1) needed one goal to silence (too) exuberant Belgium (0)
France patience and greater maturity won over a somewhat too exuberant Belgian team that did not play to its full capability. France won the tactical game or, better yet, Belgium lost it. Hazard was too eager to win the game all by himself and the linkage between him and De Bruyne did not click. De Bruyne himself while showing tidbits of brilliance at times was not as sharp and uncharacteristically missed too many passes. Most importantly Lukaku was isolated and was merely a spectator. The Belgian tactical change to an aerial attack through Mertens (excellent) crosses once they fell behind was too risky as France effectively clogged the middle of the box with Pogba and Matuidi shoring up the back four. The two teams were so equally matched in almost every position, so that it took only one headed goal (8 headers out of the last 12 scored) to separate them. France did what it had to do to advance in a workmanship style. Except for Mbappe’s sparks of genius with a few flicks and back heels no one in particular, stood out. Just as Deschamps foreshadowed ahead of the match: “We are a community”.