France breezed into the Euro 2022 quarter-finals with a game to spare by beating Belgium at Rotherham’s New York Stadium to progress as Group D winners.
Corinne Diacre’s side followed up their 5-1 thrashing of Italy with another impressive attacking display that should have seen them win by a bigger margin.
Kadidiatou Diani – one of France’s standout players so far – opened the scoring in the sixth minute when she headed in Sakina Karchaoui’s cross.
All five of France’s goals against Italy came in the first half and it looked like a repeat was on the cards as they continued to put pressure on the Belgium defence. Delphine Cascarino hit a shot from range just wide before an effort from Diani was pushed on to the post by goalkeeper Nicky Evrard.
Not even the loss of Marie-Antoinette Katoto to injury could halt the French attacks, although her early departure will be a cause for concern as they look to win a major tournament for the first time.
Belgium stunned their opponents as they equalised out of nowhere nine minutes before half-time when the ball was squeezed through to Janice Cayman, who prodded home from inside the area.
But France restored their lead five minutes later when Griedge Mbock Bathy sent a bullet of a header into the back of the net from Clara Mateo’s cross.
Despite their dominance, France were unable to add further goals after the break, even when they were awarded a late penalty when Amber Tysiak was adjudged to have handled the ball after a VAR review. Tysiak was shown a second yellow card but Wendy Renard’s spot kick was saved.
Ultimately, another goal was not needed and securing top spot means France will play the runner-up in Group C. The Netherlands currently top that group, with Sweden in second place.
Dominant France stay on course
There is no doubting the quality of this France attack as they once again opened their opponents up with ease, particularly in the first half.
This was not as emphatic a win as in their opener but it could have been if not for the woodwork and had their finishing been better.
The loss of Katoto is undoubtedly a concern but the strength of France’s forward play is through the wide areas and Diani and Cascarino were a constant menace on the flanks.
But despite scoring six goals and conceding just two in their two matches so far, they are yet to score a goal in the second half of a game. Why they are unable to maintain their intensity after the break is something boss Diacre will want to address as they now prepare for the knockout stage.
Belgium fight will give them hope
Few of the Belgian press at the New York Stadium gave their national team much chance of upsetting a France side that tore apart Italy, with their focus on getting a result in their final group game against the Italians next Monday.
However, they will take confidence from this performance.
For the second successive game they fought back to equalise and although they could not hold form to take a draw, they showed impressive fight against one of the tournament favourites.
How to play
Rate players out of 10 throughout or after the game. The rater will close 30 minutes after the final whistle.
Rating range key = Give it up = Pure perfection
- 19Mbock Bathy
- 8GeyoroSubstituted forPalisat 90+1′minutes
- 10MatéoSubstituted forTolettiat 66′minutes
- 11DianiSubstituted forBachaat 65′minutes
- 9KatotoSubstituted forSarrat 17′minutes
- 20CascarinoSubstituted forMalardat 90+1′minutes
- 15VangheluweSubstituted forMinnaertat 45′minutes
- 18De NeveSubstituted forTysiakat 70′minutesBooked at 89mins
- 2PhiltjensSubstituted forDelooseat 59′minutes
- 10VanhaevermaetSubstituted forDelacauwat 59′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 13DhontSubstituted forEurlingsat 78′minutes
- 6De Caigny
- 3Van Kerkhoven
- Cheryl Foster
Match ends, France 2, Belgium Women 1.
Second Half ends, France 2, Belgium Women 1.
Attempt saved. Wendie Renard (France) header from very close range is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Selma Bacha with a cross.
Corner, France. Conceded by Marie Minnaert.
Féli Delacauw (Belgium Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Sandie Toletti (France) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Féli Delacauw (Belgium Women).
Attempt saved. Melvine Malard (France) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Selma Bacha.
Substitution, France. Melvine Malard replaces Delphine Cascarino.
Substitution, France. Ella Palis replaces Grace Geyoro.
Attempt missed. Wendie Renard (France) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Penalty saved! Wendie Renard (France) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the bottom right corner.
Second yellow card to Amber Tysiak (Belgium Women) for hand ball.
VAR Decision: Penalty France.
Attempt blocked. Grace Geyoro (France) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Penalty conceded by Amber Tysiak (Belgium Women) with a hand ball in the penalty area.
Attempt blocked. Wendie Renard (France) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Sandie Toletti with a cross.
Corner, France. Conceded by Laura Deloose.
Charlotte Bilbault (France) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marie Minnaert (Belgium Women).