Euro 2024: Vertonghen's late own goal sends France into quarterfinals

by IANS |

Euro 2024: Vertonghen's late own goal sends France into quarterfinals Dusseldorf, July 2 (IANS) An unfortunate late own goal by Jan Vertonghen proved decisive as France edged past neighbours Belgium and into the quarterfinals of UEFA Euro 2024. Playing at the Dusseldorf Arena, France faced a tough fight from Belgium, but they rode their luck to seal a place in the last-eight stage. France started the match as the favourite but the first real frisson came at the other end. Belgium had fallen into a pattern of waiting for counters, but it was from a dead ball that they nearly took the lead. Kevin De Bruyne arced a free-kick into the France box that evaded everyone and forced Mike Maignan – seeing the ball late – to scramble a save with his feet. That presaged a positive spell from the Red Devils, who were nonetheless fortunate to end the first half level, Marcus Thuram heading narrowly wide from a Jules Kounde cross before Aurélien Tchouameni blazed over. Tchouameni had the first bite after the interval too, his shot from the edge of the area deflected by Wout Faes and batted away by Koen Casteels. France were building pressure, but their attempts were mostly wayward and off-target. Thuram, Tchouameni, and Kylian Mbappe all sent efforts over and William Saliba screwed a shot wide after Romelu Lukaku had at least found the target for Belgium. The Roma forward tested Maignan with a fierce strike, and the France keeper was likewise equal to a De Bruyne drive. The Red Devils looked like they might make France pay for their spurned chances – until the breakthrough finally came. Substitute Randal Kolo Muani was the instigator, turning in the area and beating Casteels with a shot that took a crucial deflection off Jan Vertonghen. Tough on Belgium, perhaps, but France had long threatened to strike and they can now look forward to the quarterfinals. --IANS bsk/

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