Euro flops France, Belgium seek to redeem themselves in League of Nations


PSG’s Kylian Mbappe is in action during the French Ligue 1 soccer match between Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain at Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, France on Sunday October 3, 2021 (AP Photo / Jeremias Gonzales)


Two of the biggest disappointments of the European Championship clash Thursday in the semifinals of the Nations League in Turin.

Kylian Mbappé and the France team are seeking redemption in the League of Nations, a bit like his opponent Belgium.

Mbappé was in a way the scapegoat for France’s failure at Euro 2020 after missing the decisive penalty in a penalty shoot-out in France’s loss to Switzerland in the round of 16.

The 22-year-old striker has been criticized by supporters and even his team-mates, with Olivier Giroud claiming that some people did not hand him a hand before France’s opener against Germany.

In a high-profile interview this week, Mbappé said he felt like a problem for the French national team and that he would have liked more support from his teammates.

However, France coach Didier Deschamps did not want to address Mbappé’s concerns with the media.

“Look, I don’t know what he said, I don’t read these things, I don’t care,” Deschamps said. “The most important thing is that I saw it, we talked about this and that, like we did long before you heard the interview. … What is most important to me are the discussions I have internally and directly with the player.

“Kylian is happy to be here and like all his teammates he is looking forward to tomorrow. What happened, happened. We can’t go back, neither him, nor I, nor anyone. So what’s important is today and tomorrow.

World champion France was one of the favorites to win Euro 2020 and their loss to Switzerland was a big shock, especially because the Blues were leading 3-1 15 minutes from the end.

Despite a talented squad, France failed to set the tournament on fire and only won one game, their first game against Germany.

Deschamps was asked if winning the Nations League had become more important after France’s failure this summer.

“Honestly, no,” he said. “We cannot change what happened.”

Belgium, the top ranked, is also looking to redeem itself for a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign. Italy beat Belgium 2-1 in the quarter-finals to allow the Azzurri to become European champions.

Belgium will also have revenge in mind as the last time they met France was in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, when Roberto Martínez’s side lost 1-0.

“There was great frustration,” said Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans when asked how the team felt in the dressing room immediately after this game. “I don’t want to remember it too much because when you play a big tournament like that and you’re so close to the final. You can almost touch it. … It was hard.

While Belgian Thorgan Hazard – brother of Real Madrid star Eden Hazard – was left out of the game on Wednesday, there could still be a pair of siblings on the pitch. Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich) and Theo Hernandez (AC Milan) could line up together for France in defense and midfield.

“It hasn’t happened (with France) for a long time, I think the last time was the Revelli brothers (Hervé and Patrick) in the early 1970s,” Deschamps said. “I will not consider them as two brothers but as two players.”

The winner will face Spain in the final Sunday in Milan. Spain beat European champion Italy 2-1 in the semi-finals.

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