In their Nations League defeat to France, Belgium threw away a lot of their hard work over the last five years, according to their disappointed boss, Roberto Martinez.
Belgium appeared to be well on their way to meeting Spain in Sunday’s final after goals from Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku in the first half, only for Les Bleus to come back to win 3-2.
Lukaku thought he had regained Belgium’s lead after Karim Benzema’s score and a Kylian Mbappe penalty, but Theo Hernandez got the winner in the final minute of normal time.
France won their first game despite trailing by two or more goals at halftime since a friendly against Iceland in May 2012, thanks to a VAR offside call.
In a third-place play-off this weekend, Belgium will face European champions Italy in Turin.
Martinez, who led the Red Devils to the World Cup semi-finals (where they lost to France) and the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, stated his team had no one to blame except themselves.
“We are very disappointed that we could not hold onto the lead,” he said in post-match media duties. “We didn’t have enough control in the second half. We let France get back into the game.
“When you play against someone like France, they punish all mistakes. We brought France into the game at a time when that shouldn’t happen again.
“This is a competition in which we had to show our experience and all our hard work of the past five years. The disappointment is huge because the hard work and all the efforts the team has put in has been thrown away.”
Martinez’s complaints are supported by the match statistics.
In the first half, Belgium had more shots (eight compared to four for France) and had more possession (55.8%), attempting 389 passes compared to 305 for France.
Didier Deschamps’ team, on the other hand, came out firing after the interval, scoring 12 goals to Belgium’s three. The possession statistics were also inverted, with France having 54.4 percent of the ball as they increased the pressure and eventually sealed their position in the final.