France narrowly overcomes Belgium and qualifies for Euro quarterfinals

DUESSELDORF – Kylian Mbappé and France advanced to the quarter-finals of the European Championship after a deflected shot from Randal Kolo Muani secured a 1-0 victory over Belgium.

With extra time looking imminent, Muani fired in the 85th minute and Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen’s deflection beat goalkeeper Koen Casteels for the own goal that sealed the win.

France will play either Portugal or Slovenia in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Mbappé, again wearing a mask to protect his fractured nose, had five shots but none were on target in a dull game in which the teams cancelled each other out.

“We played a difficult game against a great team,” said France coach Didier Deschamps. “I think we had much more possession and many more chances. We have to savour it. We must not underestimate this achievement. We are in the quarter-finals.”

France’s lacklustre performance, winning on an own goal, was followed by a penalty converted by Mbappé in the group stage. These are France’s only goals at Euro 2024.

Mbappé will be in the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time, as France lost on penalties to Switzerland in the round of 16 at the last tournament in 2021.

It was also a fine moment for Kolo Muani, whose last great moment at a major tournament came when he fired home in the dying seconds of extra time in the 2022 World Cup final against Argentina. His shot was sensationally saved by Emiliano Martinez, when a goal would surely have given France the title.

“I was lucky enough to shoot on goal and the ball went in,” said Muani. “We are very, very happy and very, very proud.”

Belgium return home after a poor Euro 2024 campaign, facing jeers from their own fans following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine at the end of the group stage.

Belgium captain Kevin De Bruyne played as a deeper midfielder in an attempt to help control the game and close spaces for the French attackers.

The tactic would have been a masterstroke if Belgium had won.

It was not to be, and coach Domenico Tedesco is likely to receive further criticism.