France reaches the round of 16 but sweats over Katoto’s injury while Mbock sinks Belgium

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France secured their place in the European Championship round of 16 with one match remaining after emerging victorious against Belgium on a dark summer afternoon, but will eagerly await news of the knee injury suffered by striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto.

Meanwhile, his opponents will now have to wait for results elsewhere to go their way. Although they kept up a respectable score, they couldn’t stop Kadidiatou Diani and Griedge Mbock from punishing their defensive mistakes.

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France, who had started their participation in the group stage with a 5-1 win over Italy, gave Belgium’s defense no time to acclimatize to their ferocious attack. They immediately set out to ask their opponents questions through Grace Geyoro.

Given that Geyoro had racked up a hat-trick in their previous game, it seemed like a sensible decision for Belgium to turn their attention to her. However, it was Kadidiatou Diani who snuck in at the far post in the sixth minute to head in a perfectly timed header from Sakina Karchaoui’s deep cross.

After a lengthy VAR review for possible offside, play resumed, as did the French attack. This time they were led by Clara Matéo on the opposite flank, cutting and running in circles around Sari Kees. She almost made it 2-0 with a curling effort that led to “oohs” ringing around New York Stadium.

France purred up and down. If there was any point of concern for his coach, Corinne Diacre, it would have been the early substitution of Katoto, who seemed to go down unprovoked and left the pitch clutching his knee.


His replacement, Ouleymata Sarr, did not have time to settle down. Moments later, she was watching Janice Cayman equalize for Belgium with a spike shot past Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.

No matter. France had already shown that they could outplay their rivals in their last game, and they showed it again with a goal from Mbock to make it 2-1 almost immediately.

A similar start to the second half would go a long way in putting the game to bed. France clearly shared that thought and began to pepper Nicky Evrard’s goal, with Geyoro leading the way.

Sarr soon joined Geyoro, leaving Kees in his wake, but Evrard managed to collect the ball before he could get it into the net.

Something had to change for the Ives Serneels team. In an attempt to ignite the attack, Laura Deloose and Feli Delecauw came on around the 60 minute mark. The pair immediately went to work and soon Belgium launched more counter-attacks.

But although they were forcing more turnovers in possession, France still possessed a superior attack. They would not be denied victory, goals or guaranteed passage to the quarter-finals, least of all on Bastille Day.

When the final whistle blows, Diacre and his squad could finally celebrate their progression to the commercial end of the tournament, although Katoto’s fitness will be a cause for concern.

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