Football: France – Belgium, a story of “seums”

France and Belgium meet again this Thursday, October 7 (8:45 p.m.), three years after the 2018 World Cup and in the wake of a missed Euro for both.

“I wouldn’t say the team opposite was better than us, the team opposite defended well eleven with 35 yards to go.” Time does not always erase everything. The titles resist it, the small sentences too.

That of Thibaut Courtois, like the others – “they have been doing this the whole tournament”, “everyone plays with (his) strengths, our strength is football, their strength is to defend […]” -, was invited like a boomerang, this Wednesday at the foot of the Alps.

France-Belgium may well be a semi-final of the League of Nations, a folding seat for a final in majesty in Milan, and a European classic, it has been carrying wildfire since 2018.

That of a “seum”, adjective attached for more than three years to this setback of the Belgians against the Blues in the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia (1-0). That evening, on the night of Saint Petersburg, Deschamps’ men had forced the passage to the final and their destiny by dismissing the Red Devils on a header from Umtiti on a corner. The defender had celebrated by “breaking the process” and shook the golden generation of a country of 11.5 million inhabitants.

More than three years later, therefore, Umtiti is no longer there but every allusion to Belgium refers heavily to this bitterness of Eden Hazard’s partners. This first clash since the World Cup could not escape the rule.

Even though the Real Madrid goalkeeper had quickly judged his reaction “exaggerated”, and surely taken cold note of several statistics of this match (17 French chances, 7 Belgians, 19 shots to 9), most of the players brought to face the press in recent days were entitled to their question.

Lloris: “Something in the air”

“During the post-match (at the 2018 World Cup), there were statements, reactions from both sides, rightly or wrongly, which were over-interpreted”, swept Didier Deschamps, Wednesday from the magnificent Juventus stadium. As if to evacuate the trivial and put the essential in the center: this 75th duel between the two neighbors – the opponent most faced by the Blues – is above all a very high-end poster.

The Nations League, launched to put an end to the tasteless friendlies, will have succeeded in this: putting the world champion against the N.1 in the Fifa rankings this Thursday in a real competitive match.

“We feel something in the air”, “positive energy”, described the captain of the Tricolores, Hugo Lloris.

Like the Belgians, eliminated in quarters of the last Euro by Italy, France missed its summer. And if it ended a series of five draws by dominating Finland (2-0) in September in Lyon, a benchmark success, this Thursday, would have another flavor.

That of great evenings, even in a half-full stadium due to Covid-19 where barely 20,000 spectators are expected. The Blues of “DD” are entitled to their “enchanted parenthesis”, repeated the coach Wednesday.

One year and one month before the World Cup in Qatar, it will not only serve to honor Kylian Mbappé for his 50th selection, a record at 22 in France. Facing the Lukaku-Hazard-De Bruyne trio, it will undoubtedly offer the French golden triangle and a whole team a compass towards this after the Blues are looking. To invent a sequel without Switzerland and evacuate their “seum” to them.