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Football: stunning, the Blues eliminate Belgium from the League of Nations


Resilient and stunning, the French football team signed a breathtaking last half hour to overcome a revengeful Belgium (3-2) and validate its qualification for the final of the League of Nations, thanks to the heroism of its youngster international Théo Hernandez.

Dominant for 60 minutes, Belgium has long believed to be able to soften the bitter memory of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But the world number 1 selection sank against the world champions, once again, in a much more miraculous scenario than in St. Petersburg three years ago (1-0 for the Blues) … A revenge that risks to further establish the rivalry between these two neighboring nations.

Patience, revolt and madness

“Winning this match compared to the scenario, it proves once again the strength of character of this team”, reacted the French coach Didier Deschamps on TF1.

The Blues have built their success with patience, revolt and madness. Karim Benzema reduced the score (62e), Kylian Mbappé smiled again from the penalty spot (69e), and Théo Hernandez, for his second selection, illuminated Juventus stadium with a clear shot at the far post (90e), piercing a destitute Thibaut Courtois.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge

Spain-France will therefore be the prestigious poster for the final of the second edition of the League of Nations, Sunday (8:45 p.m.) in Milan, with a second trophy within reach of Deschamps since taking office in 2012. He will not be able to not replace, nor erase, the missed Euro of the Blues, but it could allow to approach the path to the World Cup 2022 with hope.

Total intensity

Belgium and its golden generation of Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne, is experiencing a new disillusionment in its quest for an international title: the team led by Roberto Martinez postpones its dreams for a year, to Qatar.

The 20,000 tickets on sale had not all found a taker on Thursday evening, but the 12,400 fans who came to Juventus stadium will not forget this crazy meeting: the few hundred French supporters stayed for nearly half an hour to sing after the final whistle.

→ EXPLANATION. Football: Fifa consults to better impose its biennial World Cup

From the start of the match, a few boos rustled during hymns on both sides, and the total intensity of the first moments, marked by a high-class save signed by Hugo Lloris in front of Kevin De Bruyne (4e), showed that the two selections were not there to make up the figure.

Mbappé extinguished De Bruyne

The Mancunien was going to be the man of this first period: constantly found between the lines, ingenious in his passes, “KDB” has long eclipsed the 50e selection of Kylian Mbappé, a record in Blue at only 22 years old, with his two assists, for Yannick Carrasco (37e) and the impressive Romelu Lukaku (41e). The Chelsea striker even believed, at the very end of the match, to offer the victory to his people but he was signaled out of play (87e).

It was not until the hour of play, when the Belgians finally retreated, that Kylian Mbappé found the loophole. A decisive pass for Karim Benzema, scorer against his teammate Thibaut Courtois, then a penalty obtained by Antoine Griezmann and transformed with authority by the PSG striker, who had only scored once in Blue in the last eleven games.

Mbappé had offered the first goal to Benzema, Benzema offered the second to Mbappé by giving the ball of the penalty to his young partner.

This shock of neighbors was also a match between brothers: the brothers Lucas and Théo Hernandez, holders, wore the blue jersey together for the first time, unheard of since the Revellis, in 1974. The siblings will remember this first for a long time. association, and Theo now has an appointment at San Siro Sunday, the stadium of his daily life.

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Football: French and Belgians in place for the 2018 revenge



In football tournaments, this match would be called a consoling one. In other words, a meeting for butter organized so that everyone goes home happy with a lot. This semi-final of the League of Nations between France and Belgium, Thursday, October 7, looks like a stopgap for two major nations of European football, disappointed by their journey during the last Euro. France, the reigning world champion, was taken out of this tournament in the round of 16 by Switzerland. Belgium, third in the 2018 Russian World Cup, only made one more lap, eliminated in the quarter by the future Italian winner.

→ READ. Euro 2021: the Blues fall from the top

Created in 2018 to replace the tunnels of friendly matches without sporting stakes or big interest for televisions and sponsors, this second edition of the League of Nations is the perfect opportunity for Didier Deschamps’ men to redeem themselves. “We must not minimize this competition (…). This will not erase what happened, the Euro is behind us (…) there is a title at stake, we have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in the world ”, he explained Monday 4 at a press conference.

Worrying performances after the Euro

Since this disastrous last quarter of an hour of the Euro against Switzerland, when the Blues were caught in the score before losing on penalties in overtime, the group had lost ground. The worrying draws against Bosnia and Ukraine in early September in qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup had hit the nail on the head. Fortunately, the Benzema-Griezmann festival, a few days later against Finland (2-0), had put things in place and incidentally, almost qualified the Blues for Qatar. While bringing to light the puzzle of the attack.

Two, without Kylian Mbappé (injured), the Blues had found their way to the goal thanks to an Antoine Griezmann flourished in a role of leader. What will happen to three with Mbappé, against Belgium, in the ineffective configuration of the Euro? If Benzema and Griezmann seem indisputable in the device of the boss of the Blues, he sent the young Parisian a clear message during the show Telefoot, Sunday October 3. “The altruistic and collective Mbappé against Manchester City is the one I want to see”, he asserted. In other words, that his star player finds the spirit that allowed Paris SG to overthrow the champion of England in the Champions League, everything will be fine. If he plays personal and gets annoyed with his teammates like lately in a club, beware …

→ CHRONICLE. Euro 2021, the lost illusions

Station also behind, because the offensive festival against Finland (2-0) should not forget that the French deficiencies during the Euro were initially defensive. Until the Finnish good fortune, the Blues had taken the bad habit for months to concede the first goal of each game. During this last match, the boss had innovated by composing a defense to three, instead of the usual quartet. Which had worked pretty well.

A rivalry that sometimes got out of hand

Crucial for the blue crew of Captain Lloris, this meeting is also important for the Red Devils, who have revenge to take. Number one in the ranking of nations by virtue of great consistency in recent years (France is fourth), the band of Eden Hazard dreamed big until their missed European quarter-final against Italy. And still has not digested the semi-final lost in Russia against France, which had left the Belgians a bitter taste. “We lose against a team that is not better than us”, lamented goalkeeper Thibault Courtois. “I would rather lose with this Belgium than win with this France”, had assured Eden Hazard.

These words had sharpened the traditional rivalry between the two neighbors. If the Belgians have regularly won in recent years in a friendly match, they have lost the major official matches (5-0 at the 1984 euro, and 4-2 in the small final for the 3e place at the 1986 World Cup). “The rivalry has always been there, but it is healthy and sporty, tempers Didier Deschamps, but there is everything that happened outside, in the comments, there must have been excesses on both sides, because we are in the interpretations of hot words which have certainly taken on too much importance. “

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Cycling: Julian Alaphilippe at the foot of his wall in Belgium



For the 85e edition of the Flèche wallonne, which will be held on Wednesday April 21, the final of the Mur de Huy will be played without a spectator. But not without many suitors for the bouquet. The winners of the three grand rounds of 2020, Tadej Pogacar, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Primoz Roglic, will be there. Just like the winner of the 2020 edition, Marc Hirschi.

→ PORTRAIT. Wout Van Aert, a cycling champion from afar

History of blowing a few days after his title of world champion, Julian Alaphilippe, him, had withdrawn from his classic fetish, where he hung two victories (2018 and 2019) and two second places (2015 and 2016).

In four participations in the Flèche, the Berrichon has never been beaten by a rider other than Alejandro Valverde, and the Spaniard has passed his turn this year.

A score to settle with the oldest of the classics

A third success at Huy would add sparkle to the dull first part of the season for the French rider, despite a stage victory in the one-week Tirreno-Adriatico race and a 2e place on the Italian classic Strade Bianche. Landed on the Tour of Flanders (42e), “Alaf” was satisfied with a sixth place Sunday April 18 during the Amstel Gold Race, where he hoped for better.

→ READ. Covid-19: Paris-Roubaix postponed to fall

I felt my limits, it was a nervous race, with a fast tempo, it was played on the pedal, the strongest were in front, that’s all ”, declared Julian Alaphilippe at the finish, disappointed but not necessarily worried about the rest of his Ardennes week, composed of two races: the Walloon Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Sunday 25. “These are my favorite classics, I have already won the Flèche and Liège-Bastogne is my main objective for the spring”, he said.

He has a score to settle on the oldest of the classics, founded in 1892, which slipped by a hair’s breadth last year following two careless mistakes. Sure of his strength, he had raised his arms too early before being overwhelmed on the line by Primoz Roglic. Then he was legitimately stripped of his second place for a dangerous trajectory during the final sprint.

Benoît Cosnefroy and David Gaudu in ambush

These three days will therefore have an air of revenge for the world champion who had already experienced a comparable slump in early 2020. Before the interruption of the season by the Covid, Julian Alaphilippe had been disturbed by personal, related problems between others, to the poor health of his father, who died in June. “I don’t worry, I feel in good shape”, hammered this ultra-sensitive, Sunday, April 18, at the microphone of “Stage 2”, the evening of the Amstel.

With his unmatched record over a recent period in one-day races, the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider is the best French chance in the Mur de Huy. But two other tricolor contenders show the tip of their nose more and more often these days. Benoît Cosnefroy, second last year on the Flèche Wallonne, hopes “A great battle and that for once it will turn in my favor”. David Gaudu, crowned with two stage victories on the last Tour of Spain, is also shaping up to be a famous customer on these Ardennes classics with their rugged routes. Aged 25 and 24, they are, within a few months, the age of Julian Alaphilippe during his first exploits on the Flèche in 2015.

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Tour of Flanders: Wout Van Aert, a cycling champion from afar



“Let’s be honest, he wasn’t the one we expected and we were wrong. “ Big boss of the cycling press in Belgium, the daily columnist The last hour, Eric de Falleur, admits his astonishment to see the rider of the Jumbo Visma team so high in the charts. And in the polls for the bouquet at the Tour of Flanders, the most important classic of the spring with Paris-Roubaix, postponed to October 3 due to the health crisis. “We are also surprised to see the enthusiasm it arouses in France. Admittedly, it worked well on the last two Tours and that’s what made it noticed with you, but for us the great champion of the future is the young Remco Evenepoel (1) , explains the journalist.

A popular Flemish in Wallonia

For the Tour de France 2019 which made him known to the French public, Wout Van Aert was not on the first list of his training. He learned the news three weeks before departure and almost … declined his employer’s offer. It is because this powerful and skilful runner who was almost 25 years old in July 2019, an age when all the grown-ups have in principle already been talked about, seemed confined to the classics. And above all in cyclocross, a Flemish specialty which competes severely in terms of TV audience and financial interest with all road races, except the Tour of Flanders.

“He put one wheel on the road, then two, and walked really well right away. The victories followed one after another: he won Milan-San Remo, the Strade Bianche. Even recently, he climbed on the podium of a stage race (2e on Tirreno Adriatico, Editor’s note), he is the first to be surprised to succeed everywhere, and he sometimes laughs about it ”, continues Eric de Falleur. Good boy, very popular in Belgium, Flemish as well as Walloon, this boy born twenty-six years ago near Antwerp does not hesitate to speak French. And he showed his versatility and humor in a video that toured the country in minutes.

The handyman of his team

We see the ” Swiss knife “ (one of his nicknames) sweeping, serving breakfasts in hotel rooms, cleaning the team’s bus with a water jet, carrying the suitcases of its leader, Primoz Roglic. At the end of the day, his clerk of the course gives him a pat on the back from the car, giving him the last task: “If you want, go also win the sprint”. What the model employee sets out to do, with the same success as other jobs. A few days earlier, the boss could just as well have sent him to win a time trial, a flat stage, or even accompany the strongest in the mountains …

→ ANALYSIS. Cycling: David Gaudu ready to take his turn

Champions of this caliber, Belgium has had and will have others. Belgian followers often compare him to Eric De Vlaminck (the time trial in addition) and Freddy Maertens (the climbs in addition). He could therefore become world champion, string together victories in the great classics, slip onto a podium in a one-week stage race. But the Grail, a victory on one of the three great tours, starting with that of France? “That’s another matter. Besides, I didn’t expect to progress so much in the passes ”, recently explained to the Dutch-speaking sports press the person concerned, who has the wisdom to be satisfied with what he has.

Rivalry with Mathieu Van der Poel

When you’ve been screwed to a hospital bed and a chair, you realize how pleasant it is to pedal. I didn’t think about it before, it flowed naturally, explains this boy who had a terrible fall during the time trial in Pau on the 2019 Tour. Since this accident, I have really enjoyed riding and I often tell myself, while training, that I love my job. “” At the time, he was not so well known, we quickly moved on. But frankly, come back after this fall, hats off ”, declares Eric de Falleur.

This six-month struggle in rehabilitation centers made him a courageous and accessible hero in the public opinion. His spat after the Tour of Flanders 2020 with his eternal rival, Mathieu Van der Poel (they had disputed a stormy sprint, won by Van Der Poel), did not weaken his popularity. Especially since he had the intelligence to apologize to his Dutch competitor ultra-popular in Belgium, where he lives and trains. Thank you Mathieu for pushing me to my limits for years ”, he then posted on the social network Instagram. Before, perhaps, to find his revenge with the regular one from Sunday, on the cobblestones of Flanders.

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Cyclocross school

The track or the mountain bike served as a launching pad for the champions of the 2010s, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans or Peter Sagan. Many young Belgian and Dutch riders prefer the very lucrative cyclocross industry. Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van der Poel have monopolized the last seven world titles. This discipline, more widely practiced in France, is all the rage in Flemish Belgium. To attract the best, the organizers of the thirty or so major annual races are putting up to € 10,000 in a commitment purse on the table. Without counting the bonuses of victories or sponsorship.

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