When France and Belgium lock horns in Brussels on Wednesday, it will be the 72nd meeting between the sides. France, with 66 million inhabitants, outnumber their neighbours 6-1, but there has usually been little to choose between the countries on the pitch. UEFA.com goes back to the start of their rivalry 109 years ago.
It was 1904. To put it into context, that was the year the Entente Cordiale was signed between the United Kingdom and France, that work began on the Panama Canal, and that New York's first subway line opened. JM Barrie's Peter Pan was published, while on 1 May the south Brussels suburb of Uccle witnessed the opening scene of another timeless story: Belgium versus France on the football field for the first time.
Uccle has undergone a bit of a facelift since then, being transformed into a well-heeled area that is home to a wealth of lavish mansions. The Stade Vivier d'Oie survived, a vestige of former, less privileged times – the name translates as the Goose Breeding Stadium. It is now primarily a venue for field hockey.
Back in 1904 the wooden stands were not exactly full, a paltry 1,500 spectators attending the historic match. They were richly rewarded, however, an incident-packed game ending in a 3-3 draw. It meant the Evence Copée trophy, named after the Belgian aristocrat who had helped organise the fixture with French journalist and FIFA founder Robert Guérin, was not awarded.
It seemed a fitting result, helping to cement the foundations of a strong relationship between French and Belgian players. When the teams set sail for Uruguay in 1930 ahead of the inaugural FIFA World Cup they did so side by side on the SS Conte Verde. They have been close ever since, and there is little to choose between them in terms of victories too: France have won 24 encounters to Belgium's 29.
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