Jan Vertonghen's unfortunate own goal in the closing stages propelled France into the Euro 2024 quarterfinals on Monday, securing a narrow 1-0 victory over Belgium in a tense match in Düsseldorf. Despite dominating the round of 16 encounter, France's lackluster finishing seemed destined to push the game into extra time until a breakthrough five minutes from the end. Substitute Randal Kolo Muani seized the opportunity inside the Belgian box and fired a shot that was heading wide, but a deflection off Vertonghen wrong-footed goalkeeper Koen Casteels. This stroke of luck advanced the 2022 World Cup finalists to a quarterfinal showdown in Hamburg on Friday, keeping their hopes of a third European title alive.

France has yet to score from open play in the tournament, with captain Kylian Mbappe's penalty against Poland and two goals from opposing defenders accounting for their total. However, their defensive resilience has been paramount, conceding only one penalty goal thus far. Their defense was particularly impressive against Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and company, leading to Belgium's exit from a tournament that has been underwhelming for them. Both teams sought redemption, particularly Belgium after their 2018 World Cup semifinal loss to France, a defeat that still stings.

France aimed to atone for their Euro 2021 elimination in the round of 16 by Switzerland, a disappointing result sandwiched between consecutive World Cup finals appearances. Despite being favored to win the tournament, France's performance in the group stage was subpar, possibly affected by Mbappe's broken nose in the opener against Austria and Antoine Griezmann's inconsistent form. Griezmann was benched for the final group game but returned for this match, alongside Marcus Thuram, as Ousmane Dembele and Bradley Barcola were dropped. Belgium's coach Domenico Tedesco responded to his team's lackluster group stage with bold changes, starting Yannick Carrasco and Lois Openda to bolster the attack, while Kevin De Bruyne assumed a deeper role.

The expectation was for a high-scoring, open game given the attacking talent on display, but Belgium opted to defend deep and frustrate France, failing to test goalkeeper Mike Maignan in the first half. France controlled possession but often appeared disjointed and lacked precision, with Griezmann particularly ineffective on the right wing. Despite this, they created chances, with Thuram and Tchouameni both coming close in the first half. Tchouameni's deflected shot tested Casteels early in the second half, and Mbappe's effort nearly broke the deadlock. Belgium nearly capitalized on a Saliba error, but Theo Hernandez's timely intervention prevented a sure goal. Maignan made crucial saves from Lukaku and De Bruyne as the match approached its climax, highlighting the importance of a single goal. That decisive moment came in the 85th minute when Kolo Muani's shot deflected off Vertonghen, securing France's passage to the next round.