Mbappé and France into Euro 2024 quarterfinals after Kolo Muani's late goal beats Belgium 1-0

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Another frustrating match for Kylian Mbappé. Another underwhelming performance by France at the European Championship.

Didier Deschamps isn't concerned — his team is into the quarterfinals.

“It's beautiful,” the France coach said after Les Bleus relied on the ninth own-goal scored at Euro 2024 to squeeze past Belgium 1-0 in the round of 16 on Monday.

A heavyweight match between neighbors and teams ranked No. 2 (France) and No. 3 (Belgium) failed to live up to its billing, and the nature of the only goal proved to be fitting.

Randal Kolo Muani, on as a second-half substitute, turned in the area and sent in a shot in the 85th minute that deflected off Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen and looped over stranded goalkeeper Koen Casteels.

“I was lucky enough to get my shot on target,” he said of his decisive intervention. “It was blocked but it went in. We’re very, very happy and very, very proud.”

UEFA thought differently about the destination of Kolo Muani's shot and put it down as an own-goal, the latest in a tournament full of them.

It's the second own-goal earned by France while there has also been a penalty by Mbappé. It means a France player has yet to score from open play.

“Even if today that goal was enough to get us to the quarterfinals, we have the capability to score more,” Deschamps said.

France will play Portugal or Slovenia in the last eight on Friday.

Mbappé, again wearing a mask to protect his broken nose sustained against Austria in France's opening match, had five of France's 20 shots but none were on target. He played mostly on the left wing and was well-marshalled by a Belgian defensive set-up that included Kevin De Bruyne — the team's most creative player — deployed as a deep-lying midfielder.

De Bruyne had more clearing headers than incisive passes before being pushed further forward for the final half-hour of the game. Back in his favored position, he created Belgium's best chance when he played through Yannick Carrasco, who took too long over a shot that was blocked by France left back Theo Hernandez.

The match-winner, instead, was Kolo Muani, whose last big moment at a major tournament came when he bore down on goal in the last seconds of extra time in the 2022 World Cup final against Argentina. His shot was saved by Emi Martinez, when a goal would surely have won the title for France.

France's overall display will do little to stop the growing dissent among many of its fans who feel more can come from a talented bunch of players headlined by Mbappé, playing on the day he officially became a Real Madrid player.

Deschamps, however, was happy with his pragmatic tactics, saying: “We were intelligent, playing the waiting game and not falling into their trap."

Mbappé will be playing in his first ever quarterfinal at the European Championship, with France having lost on a penalty shootout to Switzerland in the last 16 at the last tournament in 2021.

As for the Belgians, they head home after a fairly miserable Euro 2024, during which the players were jeered loudly by their own fans following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine at the end of the group stage.

Against France, they were intent on not leaving the game too open for the quick French attackers and the deployment of De Bruyne in a deeper role helped in that regard, even if it limited the team's attacking options.

The tactic would have been a masterstroke had Belgium won. Unfortunately for coach Domenico Tedesco, it didn't.

“To go into detail tonight,” he said, “is difficult for me.”


AP Euro 2024: