Nations League: Late Hernandez Strike Seals Victory For France
By Chidi Nwoke.
Theo Hernandez’s last minute strike completed a remarkable come-from-behind victory for France, who battled from 2-0 down against Belgium to win 3-2 at the Juventus’ Allianz Stadium in Italy, reaching the UEFA Nations League Final.
Belgium started with a front three of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, while World champions France lined up Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe in attack, supported by Antoine Griezmann. Adrien Rabiot partnered Paul Pogba, while brothers Lucas and Theo Hernandez started together for France for the first time.
Belgium threatened through Youri Tielemans and De Bruyne before France, through Mbappe, nearly opened the scoring. In the 37th minute, Yannick Carrasco scored for Belgium after finding space in the box, beating goalkeeper Hugo Lloris at his near post.
Belgium doubled its lead four minutes later through Lukaku in fine fashion as De Bruyne was involved again.
The Manchester City playmaker found Lukaku in the right flank before the striker fired in his 10th goal in his last eight Nations League games from a tight angle to put his side in complete control going into the halftime break.
Paul Pogba sent a shot and a header off target at the start of the second half as France desperately searched for a response.
France looked a different side in the second half and they gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Benzema showed brilliant control in the box surrounded by Belgian players, before finding space as he fired the ball into the corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Seven minutes later, France were level. Tielemans’ clumsy foul on Griezmann was spotted by referee Daniel Siebert, following a VAR and pitchside monitor check and a penalty was awarded.
Mbappe stepped up and fired the ball into the net to make the scores 2-2.
The momentum had swung in the favour of France. However, the World champions were briefly stunned in the 87 minute when a break down the left led to Carrasco crossing for Lukaku, who converted brilliantly. But a VAR review resulted in an offside decision, which silenced the celebrations.
Instead, it was France who claimed a late winner in a turn of events. Pavard’s pass across the box found Theo Hernandez in space, and the wing-back gave Courtois no chance as he fired his powerful shot into the net to send his country into the final.
Another chance for a title slipped away from Belgium, just as after their 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to France.
The match finished 3-2 to France as the World champions showed once again why they are considered as the best in the world against Belgium’s Golden Generation.
Spain booked its place in the final after beating Italy 2-1 on Wednesday.
France set up a mouth-watering Sunday showdown with Spain in the UEFA Nations League final, while Belgium will play European champions Italy in a third-place play-off.