FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup: Key decisions backfired in Belgium’s meek surrender to France

Against Brazil, Roberto Martinez’s changes worked well. On Tuesday evening, they didn’t.

No, Belgium did not choke in losing a World Cup semi-final to France. That would suggest that Belgium, being the superior side, managed to throw the plot away at a key juncture.

The Red Devils, such a feared attacking force, were made to look toothless and hapless by a well-drilled French outfit. They were frustrated, lost the plot a few times and were beaten square and sound even if it was by a single goal.

The same team that managed to score at a rate of three goals or more per game in the run-up to the World Cup, top scorers in the tournament till this point with 13, were nullified by Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante and Hugo Lloris.

Dembele and other questionable calls

Belgium had their chances but they had blinked first in changing their tactics for the marquee clash. The suspension of the right-sided Thomas Meunier had given Roberto Martinez quite a head-ache and it forced the Spaniard into selecting Moussa Dembele.

More important than the personnel change was the tweak in formation. Throughout the tournament and even against Brazil, the 3-4-3 had served the 1986 semi-finalists well, allowing them to switch from attack to defence and back at will.

In Saint Petersburg, Martinez, instead of opting for a straight swap had plumped for the 3-5-2, caving to the opposition’s demands and significantly hampering his own team’s attack. No longer was Kevin de Bruyne in the advanced attacking position that had seen him score a belter in the quarters and Romelu Lukaku was forced to go central again.

Against Brazil, Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini had been brought in and had been imperious. Here, they were found wanting against an unyielding opponent. The tactical decision to drop Yannick Carrascco and Dries Mertens had worked on that night.

Here, the Dembele decision backfired and Martinez knew it; the Tottenham man was the first to make way as Mertens was introduced. In his duel against Pogba, Dembele lost by quite a margin. De Bruyne was on the periphery of the play, as he was, earlier into the tournament. Yet, one man is expected to bear the brunt of this Belgian defeat.

Romelu Lukaku goes missing

Lukaku’s game has always been confidence-based. Tasked with leading the line for Belgium was never going to be easy, especially after their glittering displays off late.

Not withstanding, the Manchester United forward looked to run at defenders and shake them off for a cozy 90 minutes. Against France, he was asked to and he stuck to the job of remaining central, to annoy Umtiti and Varane.

Unfortunately for him, he was so far away from the support cast that the first half barely saw a chance created for him, or for that matter, a ‘half-chance’. Martinez’s flooding of the midfield saw Belgium control most of the ball, but short on numbers when it came to delivering it into the box.

His golden chance did come towards the end of the game, as De Bruyne delivered a peach of a ball from deep but Lukaku checked his run and halted abruptly, not reaching the ball. At 29, the next World Cup won’t be beyond him but there’s no doubting that this semi-final did not see the best of Lukaku. His energy and work rate, which has been on display throughout the World Cup, were missing on Tuesday evening, either through his own inaction or through his manager’s surprising decisions.

Golden generation’s golden chance gone

It was always going to be a game of fine margins, and so it proved as Umtiti’s header was the difference maker. Umtiti out-jumped Fellaini, elbows and all, to deliver the fatal punch and it was decisive, given France’s strengths at the back.

“Not scoring the first goal was going to be very difficult because of the way France were set up,” Martinez would later admit. The difference could have been larger, had Giroud and the French attackers taken the chances that came their way but Courtois stood firm amidst the chaos.

Eden Hazard, he of the tricky dribble fame, try as he might, could not drag his team over the line as they fell flat. That he will be in running for the Golden Ball will come as scant consolation to him but he can nonetheless hold his head high.

Belgium’s golden generation won’t fade away easily and might come back roaring to win Euro 2020, but this was a big chance lost. Like in 2014, the exit was meek and that is what will be gnawing at the players as they try and pick themselves up for a third-place match on Saturday.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900


If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.