The loss is heartbreaking for Belgium and its trio of Tottenham Hotspur players — Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Mousa Dembele. Vertonghen, in particular, felt as though loss to France didn’t show what the Red Devils were truly capable of, saying that they “deserved more” than a narrow semifinal loss.
“We are disappointed as we feel that we are the strongest team at the tournament,” Vertonghen said post-match. Yes, we haven’t created so many [scoring] chances in front of our opponents’ gate today. But it is difficult to face such a team, as the first goal means so much in a game like this.
”Would I like to win like that? I’d like to play in the World Cup final, so I’d say ‘yes.’ We deserved more due to our performance.”
Vertonghen’s comments seem to imply frustration with the way France closed up shop after the Umtiti goal. That seems a little unfair considering how open the match was before the goal, but he’d be correct in noting how France reverted to an ultra-defensive stance after going up 1-0. And it was undoubtedly effective. Jan’s teammate Thibaut Courtois went even further, deriding what he called France’s “anti-football.”
“France played anti-football. I have never seen a striker playing so far from goal. It’s their right to play like that, because they know we’re having a hard time with that. But it is not nice to see. This team was no better than us. France defended well, but that is it. Details have decided. Actually, I would have preferred to play Brazil again instead of France.”
The French-speaking Belgian media also sharpened their knives for Mousa Dembele, criticizing his performance for Belgium, and Roberto Martinez for bringing him in for such a crucial game. Tottenham fans know how Dembele can change a match, but Martinez opted to play him as kind of a false wingback — in an unbalanced formation that was seemed to have more defensive responsibilities than we expect from Mousa. It didn’t work — Dembele didn’t have the strongest of games, and he was pilloried in the Belgian press, who said that he “squandered his chance again” in the Belgian national team.