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Euro 2024 preview: France collide with broken Belgians

By this stage of the European Championship, favourites France and contenders Belgium would have wanted to be well into their stride and hitting their straps as they enter the knockout stages.

Instead, the neighbours go spluttering into the last 16 and into a head-on collision in Dusseldorf this afternoon after both failed to finish top of their first-round group.

France's much-vaunted attack is suffering from a crisis of confidence and coach Didier Deschamps, usually a steady hand guiding the squad, looks unsure of what his next move will be.

Belgium will have had some motivation sucked out of their cause following an astonishingly hostile reaction from their own supporters after they limped into the next stage of the tournament in Germany.

Despite Wednesday’s draw with Ukraine assuring them progress, they were subjected to loud barracking from their fans and have since closed ranks.

Captain Kevin De Bruyne did not take kindly to the abuse. His attitude and demeanour will set the tone for the rest of the Belgian side as they look to leave behind them the limp performances from the group stage.

Romelu Lukaku needs to find his scoring touch after a number of missed opportunities in the tournament. His record 85 goals for Belgium does not include any from Euro 2024, and overall he has a poor scoring record at major tournaments. However, France defender William Saliba feels that the threat posed by the striker is still significant.

"There aren't many defenders who enjoy playing against Romelu Lukaku, I think," said the Arsenal centre-back. "But we don't have a choice, that's how it is. When you're a defender, you’re happy because we're playing against the best.

"You know how to play against attackers like this. You have to be