- Kevin de Bruyne reflects on Belgium defeat to France
- Midfielder says they can be pleased with their efforts
- Manchester City star comes to terms with defeat
By Simon Massart with Belgium
“That’s football!” goes the saying, one that reflects the resigned air of Belgium’s Red Devils after France had ended their hopes of glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Their reaction could be perceived as a type of defence mechanism, a way of keeping the sadness and despair they felt at their narrow 1-0 semi-final defeat at bay.
Les Bleus rose to the occasion, and the Red Devils felt they did too, despite the result. Speaking to FIFA afterwards, midfielder Kevin de Bruyne said: “It was literally 50/50. We knew it was going to come down to the little details, and it was a corner that made the difference [which Samuel Umtiti scored from].”
The other detail lies in Belgium’s match statistics: despite completing 594 passes – more than 91 per cent of which were successful – to France’s 345, and enjoying nearly 64 per cent possession, Belgium only managed three on-target attempts on Hugo Lloris’ goal.
It was the worst possible time for the most prolific attack of Russia 2018 to lose their touch in front of goal, their threat blunted by a defensive wall expertly constructed by Didier Deschamps. “We did everything we could to test them, but it just wasn’t meant to be today,” said the Belgian playmaker. “That’s how football goes, and when you feel you’ve done all you can then you just have to accept it.”
A side at the peak of their powers – most of their players are in their late 20s – Roberto Martinez’s men were banking on their blend of talent and experience in the most important match of their lives. “We did what we had to do,” said De Bruyne. “I’m proud of the way we performed and of our World Cup. France maybe played a little defensively but the beauty of football is that you can choose the way you want to play. I respect that.
“We feel we’ve given our all and we need to focus on the positives,” continued the Manchester City midfielder, reflecting Belgium’s admirable ability to deal with defeat and to put things into perspective. Keen not to show their sadness, the Red Devils know the rules of the game all too well, having ridden their luck a little to see off Brazil four days previously.
On Saturday they will set about securing third place, which would be the country’s best ever World Cup placing. Making that objective clear, De Bruyne said: “We’ve got just one wish now: to win a sixth match in Russia so we can go away on holiday even more at peace with ourselves.”