Nations League 2021: France scores a 90th-minute winner against Belgium to win 3-2

Theo Hernandez, Karim Benzema
Theo Hernandez and Karim Benzema celebrates the winning goal in the semi-final

France defeated Belgium 3-2 in the second semi-final of the 2021 UEFA Nations League to set up a clash with Spain at the San Siro Stadium in Milan on Sunday.

Belgian manager Roberto Martinez selected a back three of Toby Alderweireld, Jason Denayer, and Jan Vertonghen ahead of Thibaut Courtois with Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel forming a double pivot in the middle of the park. Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Timothy Castagne were playing as the wing-backs with Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and Eden Hazard forming the front three.

French manager Didier Deschamps also fielded a back three of Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, and Lucas Hernandez ahead of skipper Hugo Lloris with Benjamin Pavard and Theo Hernandez playing in the wing-backs position. Adrien Rabiot and Paul Pogba were selected as the two central midfielders behind Antoine Griezmann in the hole supporting the striker duo of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe.

The Belgian Red Devils started on the front foot as Lukaku’s cross found de Bruyne whose piledriver shot was saved excellently by Lloris in the third minute of the match. The following half-hour was a cagey affair but Carrasco turned the match on its head when he cut in from the left and swept the ball over the line at the near post with Lloris stranded in his position.

Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne celebrate taking a 2-goal lead

Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne celebrate taking a 2-goal lead

Three minutes later, de Bruyne fed a through ball to Lukaku, and the striker found the top-left corner of the net giving the Belgians a comfortable 2-0 lead at half-time.

Les Blues came out in the second half full of motivation and a tactical switch to press the Belgian team constantly in order to create more chances.

Just before the hour mark, Mbappe brilliantly dribbled past three defenders before setting up Griezmann who missed the target from 3 yards out. A few minutes later, Benzema received the ball in the penalty area after a beautiful move involving Mbappe and the Real Madrid striker slotted the ball in the back of the net despite being surrounded by 4 players in the red jersey.

In the 66th minute, Griezmann made the most of a challenge from Tielemans and went down inside the penalty area earning a spot-kick for his team which was converted by star man Mbappe.

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Belgium almost took the lead twice as de Bruyne was close to finding his much-deserved goal of the night after two assists but his strike from the edge of the box forced Lloris to produce a world-class save. In the 87th minute, Carrasco sent a cross in for Lukaku and the Chelsea striker found the back of the net with a smart finish but was ruled offside by VAR (Video Assistant Referee) allowing the French players to take a sigh of relief.

France players celebrate the last-minute winner against Belgium

France players celebrate the last-minute winner against Belgium

With less than two minutes remaining on the clock, France won a free-kick 30 yards away from goal and Pogba struck the crossbar with a beautiful swerving strike but the luck wasn’t on the Manchester United midfielder’s side. In the 90th minute, a cross from Pavard found Theo Hernandez, and the AC Milan defender scored his first goal for Les Blues with a sweet strike from the edge of the box to win the match for his team.

Spain defeated 10-men Italy 2-1 in the first semi-final taking revenge for the 2020 UEFA Euros semi-final defeat at the hands of the eventual winners Azzuri. La Roja will be awaiting the French challenge in the final on Sunday.