Belgian hopes of a place at next summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship are on the line when they visit Group A rivals France on Wednesday.
The Red Devils are level with second-placed France in Group 8 having played a game more. With leaders Ukraine three points clear, Belgium coach Jean-François de Sart knows it is win-or-bust time for his players, as he told UEFA.com. "There's no option left for us other than to win to stay in the race for qualification. This is a difficult task, we know, but we will do all we can to achieve it otherwise we might as well not even travel to France. We are realistic that it will not be easy against a good side like France, but we believe in our chances."
Belgium have scored only five times in six qualifiers and were held 0-0 by France in Mouscron last October. Yet De Sart is hopeful striker Jelle Vossen can reproduce the form he has shown for KRC Genk already this season. Vossen, capped twice at senior level, has hit five goals in three outings in the Belgian First League and UEFA Europa League. "I am glad to have a player in good shape like that," said De Sart who is missing suspended midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and cannot call on RSC Anderlecht teenager Romelu Lukaku, now a fully-fledged member of the senior squad.
Victory would send France level with Ukraine at the top of the section ahead of the teams' September showdown in Kyiv but coach Erick Mombaerts admits they may struggle for fluency given their last competitive appearance came in November. It does not help Mombaerts that Laurent Blanc, new coach of the senior team, has called up Mamadou Sakho, Yann M'Vila and Moussa Sissoko, nor that Cheikh M'Bengué, Étienne Capoue and Anthony Modeste are all injured.
That said, Mombaerts can at least call on David Ngog, scorer of three of Liverpool FC's four goals in their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round victory over FK Rabotniki. The coach will look to other English-based players in midfielders Steven N'Zonzi (Blackburn Rovers FC) and Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton FC), as well as forward Jonathan Biabiany from European champions FC Internazionale Milano.
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