France's aspirations of reaching the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship are hanging by a thread after a 1-0 defeat by an impressive Belgium side.
Victory in Vannes would have sent Eric Mombaerts' team level with Ukraine atop Group 8, three points clear of their opponents with a game in hand. Always a stiff task, prospects were even bleaker when Benjamin Mokulu Tembe broke the deadlock on eight minutes, latching onto Mehdi Carcela-González's fine pass and firing in. Johann Carrasso had already denied Joachim Mununga in a one-on-one and, aside from a couple of late half-chances, the home side never looked like mounting a comeback.
Belgium will seal a top-two spot with victory against Slovenia on 3 September; barring a slip-up by the Red Devils, Les Bleus need to beat section leaders Ukraine in Kyiv on the same night to keep their realistic hopes alive. Crowned UEFA European Under-19 Championship winners last month, France will need to hone their attacking creativity after mustering little more than a David Ngog header from a long pass and a Nolan Roux shot.
"It's a big disappointment," said Roux. "We had some good moments but not enough to create any real chances. They scored at the beginning of the game – maybe we were less efficient, physically, thereafter. But we really wanted to win. It's a loss but I believe we can win our remaining games and go through to the European championship."