Belgium threw away plenty of their hard work from across the last five years in their Nations League defeat to France, says a frustrated Roberto Martinez.
First-half goals from Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku had seemingly put Belgium well on their way to facing Spain in Sunday’s final, only for Les Bleus to fight back to win 3-2.
Theo Hernandez got the winner in the final minute of normal time, just moments after Lukaku thought he had restored Belgium’s lead following Karim Benzema’s strike and a Kylian Mbappe penalty.
Yet VAR came to France’s aid with an offside call, as they won their first game after trailing by two or more goals at half-time since May 2012 against Iceland in a friendly.
Belgium will return to Turin to face European champions Italy in a third-place play-off this weekend. Martinez, who guided the Red Devils to a semi-final at World Cup 2018 (where they lost to France) and the quarter-finals in Euro 2020, said his side had nobody but themselves to blame.
“We are very disappointed that we could not hold onto the lead,” he said in post-match media duties. “We didn’t have enough control in the second half. We let France get back into the game.
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“When you play against someone like France, they punish all mistakes. We brought France into the game at a time when that shouldn’t happen again.
“This is a competition in which we had to show our experience and all our hard work of the past five years. The disappointment is huge because the hard work and all the efforts the team has put in has been thrown away.”
The match statistics back up Martinez’s complaints.
In the first half, Belgium had more shots (eight compared to France’s four) and controlled the possession (55.8 per cent), attempting 389 passes in contrast to 305.
Yet Didier Deschamps’ side came out a different force after the restart, mustering 12 attempts in total, with Belgium only managing three, while the possession statistics were also flipped – France having 54.4 per cent of the ball as they upped the pressure and ultimately sealed their place in the final.
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