Thursday, July 25, 2024

France v Belgium: Les Bleus have no need to fear Red Devils, claims Dugarry

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 29 Jun 2024

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France should hold no fear ahead of facing Belgium in the round of 16 at Euro 2024, according to Christophe Dugarry.

Les Bleus, who were among the favourites prior to the tournament in Germany, finished second behind Austria in Group D after some unconvincing performances.

Indeed, their goals came from a Maximilian Wober own goal and a Kylian Mbappe penalty, with France landing themselves in the tougher half of the draw along with Spain, Portugal, hosts Germany and last-16 opponents Belgium, who they play on Monday in Dusseldorf.

That has seen their chances of winning the trophy slip down to 13%, according to Opta’s supercomputer, but looking ahead to Monday’s clash with Belgium, Duggary, who won the World Cup in 1998 and Euros in 2000, feels France have nothing to fear.

“Of course, they have individuals, but I don’t see why we should be afraid,” Duggary said in his role as a pundit on Rothen s’ignee on RMC.

“If we are not capable of beating these Belgians, we [will do] nothing at the European Championship.”

Dugarry pointed to Belgium’s weak defence as a reason for France to be confident.

“[Timothy] Castagne, [Wout] Faes, [Jan] Vertonghen who is 37… They have a midfield with [good] players, but no one defends in this team. For me, they’re an enigma.

“[Jeremy] Doku is the same as [Ousmane] Dembele. But given the criticism that we’ve put on Dembele since the start of the competition, we’re not going to say better about Doku.

“I understand the Belgian supporters, who are disappointed. We’ve been talking to them for years and years about a golden generation. But the golden generation is starting to no longer be golden at all. They have no legs, no aggression.”

If France are to take advantage of Belgium’s indifferent performances so far, then they will need their forwards to be firing on all cylinders, something defender William Saliba is acutely aware of.

“It’s true we didn’t score many goals in the group stage. When you don’t score a lot, you have to be focused,” Saliba said.

“But that’s how it can be when you are playing at the highest level. But I have no doubt that the attackers will be there in the round of 16 and deliver.

“It’s clear that we have to be more dangerous with our set-pieces, especially me. I think I haven’t even touched one, so we can do better.”

Belgium’s attackers similarly misfired in Group E. In fact, only Serbia (3.8%) had a poorer shot conversion rate in the group stage than Belgium and France (both 4.2% – two goals from 48 shots).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

France – Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe netted his first ever goal at the Euros when he put away that penalty against Poland. It took his tally to 13 goals across major tournaments, with only Michel Platini (14 in 19 games) ever scoring more for France.

The new Real Madrid forward is also only two goals away from becoming the third French player to score 50 goals in all competitions, after Olivier Giroud (57) and Thierry Henry (51).

Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne

During the group stage, Belgium were the team with the highest share of their line-breaking passes being those that broke the opposition’s defensive line (18%).

And it was De Bruyne who broke the opponent’s defensive line on more occasions than any other midfielder (11). If Belgium are to progress, they will need their playmaker on top form.

MATCH PREDICTION: FRANCE WIN

France have drawn five of their last six Euro matches (one win), having only drawn four of their previous 25 games in the competition (14 wins, seven defeats). Their round-of-16 match at Euro 2020 was a 3-3 draw with Switzerland, with Les Bleus eventually going out 5-4 on penalties.

Belgium, meanwhile, have advanced to the knockout stages of a third consecutive Euros, having reached the quarter-finals in 2016 and 2020. The Red Devils have won each of their last four last-16 games at major tournaments since losing to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup (0-2).

However, France have won all four of their previous matches against Belgium at major tournaments, scoring 13 goals and conceding only three.

Their only previous meeting at the Euros was 40 years ago, in 1984 – France won 5-0 in the group stages courtesy of a Platini hat-trick and goals from Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez.

This will be France and Belgium’s 76th encounter overall. Les Bleus have faced the Belgians nearly twice as often as any other team (39 meetings each with Italy and Switzerland). Meanwhile, Belgium have only faced the Netherlands (129 times) on more occasions than the French.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

France – 58.4%

Belgium – 20.8%

Draw – 20.8%

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

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