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Belgium 2-3 France: Theo Hernández completes stunning comeback and puts Les Bleus into Nations League final

Theo Hernández's first international goal completed a stunning comeback and set up a final date with Spain.

Theo Hernández celebrates his dramatic winner for France
Theo Hernández celebrates his dramatic winner for France Icon Sport via Getty Images

France will meet Spain in the UEFA Nations League final after a sensational second-half comeback against Belgium.

Belgium vs France: as it happened, reaction


Match in brief

Highlights: Belgium 2-3 France
Highlights: Belgium 2-3 France

It was Belgium who looked destined for Sunday's showpiece based on their first-half showing. Hugo Lloris pulled off a remarkable early save to keep out Kevin De Bruyne, but Yannick Carrasco's low shot and Romelu Lukaku's characteristically marauding run and thumping finish put Roberto Martínez's side firmly in control.

Les Bleus were a different proposition after the break, however. Though Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann both passed up chances to give their team a foothold, Karim Benzema made no such mistake when he turned nimbly inside the penalty area and finished. Kylian Mbappé's unerring penalty soon restored parity.

Lukaku thought he had won it for Belgium late on only to be ruled out for offside. Paul Pogba then struck the bar with a free-kick, yet there was time for more drama still. France launched a sweeping counterattack and the ball eventually found its way to Theo Hernández on the edge of the penalty area; he steadied himself with one touch before firing into the corner to complete a dramatic turnaround.

Karim Benzema pulled the first goal back for France
Karim Benzema pulled the first goal back for FranceAFP via Getty Images

Player of the Match: Kylian Mbappé (France)

"With his lightning pace and ability to threaten the opposition goal, Mbappé dominates France's attack. He opens up the play, pulls defenders towards himself to set up team-mates and takes full responsibility to get into scoring positions of his own. He made the difference in turning this game around."
Vera Pauw, UEFA Technical Observer

David Crossan‏, France reporter

Kylian Mbappé was in sensational form for France
Kylian Mbappé was in sensational form for FranceDeFodi Images via Getty Images

From two goals down, that was stunning from the world champions, with Mbappé to the fore. Theo Hernández's winner underlines why the attack-minded Milan wing-back was selected by Didier Deschamps. With France's front three having clicked, Les Bleus will back themselves against Spain; it should be another thrilling match to watch. The overall balance of the team still needs work, but the stirring comeback will delight Deschamps.

Alyssa Saliou, Belgium reporter

We have to be honest: France deserved to win here. We saw brilliant flashes from De Bruyne and Lukaku in the first half, and Belgium even took a two-goal lead, but they were outplayed in the second half. You have to maintain your level for 90 minutes against a top team like France. If you don't, this can happen. What a missed opportunity for Belgium finally to win a tournament.

Reaction

Didier Deschamps, France coach: "Winning the match in that way shows the strength of character of the squad. The players never give in. We came here to play in the final; we're in it and there will be a trophy at stake. We'll do everything we can in order to lift it."

Hugo Lloris, France goalkeeper: "We were behind by two goals at half-time but we came back in a very impressive way. On the field, it was like a boxing match. We could feel the game could go either way. Mentally, we were very strong and it's a great feeling."

Roberto Martínez, Belgium coach: "In the second half, we were a little too emotional – maybe we were thinking a little too much about the final, about qualifying."

Key stats

The Hernández brothers
The Hernández brothersIcon Sport via Getty Images
  • Lucas and Theo Hernández are the first brothers to represent France together since the Revellis in 1974.
  • Lukaku has scored 68 goals in 101 internationals; only five European players have ever scored more.
  • France have only failed to score in two of their last 28 international matches.
  • Aged just 22 years and 291 days, Mbappé is the youngest player ever to win 50 caps for France.
  • Lukaku has scored ten goals in his last eight UEFA Nations League appearances for Belgium.

Line-ups

Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Castagne (Batshuayi 90+2), Witsel, Tielemans (Vanaken 70), Carrasco; De Bruyne, Lukaku, E. Hazard (Trossard 74)

France: Lloris; Koundé, Varane, L. Hernández; Pavard (Dubois 90+2), Pogba, Rabiot (Tchouameni 75), T. Hernández; Griezmann; Benzema (Veretout 90+7), Mbappé

Next up

Belgium will play Italy in the third-place play-off in Turin on Sunday (15:00 CET).
France will play Spain in the final in Milan on Sunday (20:45 CET).