France survive Belgium scare to reach Euro quarters

·2 min read

France survived a scare to reach the Euro 2022 quarter-finals as Group D winners after a 2-1 victory against Belgium on Thursday.

Corinne Diacre's side made the perfect start when Kadidiatou Diani headed in from Sakina Karchaoui's cross after just six minutes.

Janice Cayman grabbed a shock equaliser for underdogs Belgium with a close-range finish in the 36th minute at Rotherham's New York Stadium.

But France, who had crushed Italy 5-1 in their opening group game, recovered from that setback five minutes later.

Griedge Mbock Bathy rose highest to power a bullet header into the net from Clara Mateo's cross, ensuring her team joined the Bastille Day celebrations.

France, who had 27 shots to Belgium's two, wasted a chance to win by a bigger margin when Amber Tysiak's handball was given as a penalty after a VAR review.

Tysiak's offence triggered a dismissal for her second yellow card, but Wendy Renard's spot kick was saved by Nicky Evrard.

"We need to make the most of these joyful moments when they arise. It's rare to get through a group with a game to spare," Diacre said.

"Belgium gave it their all at the end of the game, they wanted to equalise. We managed to stand our ground.

"They had a lot of chances and so did we. We weren't as clinical as against Italy but it's not every day you score five goals in the first half."

The only concern for France was a first half injury to Marie-Antoinette Katoto that could put her participation in the knockout stages in doubt.

"Katoto has sprained her knee I think, that's all we know at the moment. It's the same knee that was injured before but a different injury," Diacre said.

France have won their last 16 matches in all competitions, scoring 69 goals and conceding just seven times in this run.

They have only ever had one longer winning run in their history, a 17-match streak between August 2011 and July 2012.

In the quarter-finals, France will play the runner-up in Group C, with Netherlands currently in first place and Sweden sitting second.

Belgium are in third place in Group D, with one point from two games.

They must beat Italy in their final match on Monday to have a chance of overtaking second placed Iceland, who are one point ahead of them after drawing 1-1 with Italy earlier on Thursday.

Iceland's final group match is against France on Monday.

Belgium boss Ives Serneels said: "We did everything we could to achieve a result. Everyone was at their top level.

"We have been working for months now to turn the players into a real team. In our dreams we wanted to pull off an upset. We just didn't make it, but I'm very proud."

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