Belgium hangs on to beat France

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PARIS: Belgium lived up to their billing as second only to world champions Germany in the FIFA rankings with a tougher than expected 4-3 victory over France, at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday (Monday in Manila).

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Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini gave Marc Wilmot’s side a 2-0 half-time lead, with goals in the 17th and 42nd minutes, before second half strikes from Radja Nainggolan and Eden Hazard appeared to have put the result beyond doubt.

Dynamo Moscow’s Mathieu Valbuena scored for the home side from the penalty spot on 53 minutes, just before Chelsea’s Hazard slotted home from a penalty moments later.

“To come to France and win is a great result,” said Wilmots.

“We created dozens of chancers and didn’t give awau many.”

France midfielder Blaise Matuidi commented: “It was a complicated night. We missed lots of opportunities. There’s work to be done.”

At 4-1 up and only minutes remaining, the visitors looked to be in complete control.

But Nabil Fekir pulled France back to 4-2 down with his first international goal in the dying minutes when he fired past Thibaut Courtois and Dimitri Payet added an injury time third for the battling French.

However it was too little too late as Belgium held on for a rare away victory over their next-door neighbors.

France have now conceded seven goals in their last three matches which is more than their previous 16 encounters combined.

Belgium can now look forward to their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier, against Wales in Cardiff on Friday, in confident mood despite the doubts surrounding their head coach.

Belgium and Wales are level on 11 points from five matches and tied for top spot in Group B with Israel two points further back. The top two teams qualify while Wales have failed to qualify for a major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup ahead of the match at Cardiff City stadium.

Wilmots has been linked with a move to Bundesliga club Schalke 04 where he won the UEFA Cup as a player with the German club in 1997.

“I have been contacted. I have a clause which allows me to leave at any time. But that does not mean that I will go,” said the 46-year-old Wilmots recently.

The last two meetings of the neighbors ended in goalless draws, with Belgium last beating France in May 2002, when Wilmots scored in stoppage time to seal a 2-1 win against the then world champions.

France are Euro 2016 hosts and qualify automatically.

AFP

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