Denmark upsets France, Netherlands thrashes Belgium

Denmark's Andreas Cornelius, right, challenges for the ball with France's William Saliba during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between France and Denmark at the Stade de France in Saint Denis near Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Denmark stunned titleholder France 2-1 in their opening Nations League match at the Stade de France on Friday, ending the world champion’s seven-match winning streak.

After Karim Benzema put the hosts in front, substitute Andreas Cornelius scored twice to earn Denmark its first win over France since the 2002 World Cup. Cornelius leveled with a fine volley then hit the winner in the 88th minute.

France was unbeaten in its past 20 matches. It will next travel to Croatia, which lost to Austria 3-0 at home in Group A1.

Meanwhile, Memphis Depay scored twice as the Netherlands produced its first win against bitter rival Belgium in 25 years by 4-1 in Brussels, in another group of the the top-tier League A.

A week after the Champions League final was marred by crowd chaos, there were no reported incidents at the Stade de France this time.

France was under pressure in the opening 10 minutes but gradually found the right balance and created its first good chance in the 13th minute through Benzema, back at the Stade de France a week after he claimed the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid.

The move signaled a good spell of dominance for France, with Benzema and Kylian Mbappé combining well to unsettle Denmark’s defense.

Denmark managed to keep the hosts at bay by closing down space.

Mbappé, who appeared to pick up an injury, was replaced by Christopher Nkunku after the break. He had an immediate impact and in the 51st minute set up Benzema, who dribbled his way past defenders and shot low for his 37th international goal.

But Cornelius beat the offside trap and volleyed into the net in the 68th. Christian Eriksen came close in the closing stages but France keeper Hugo Lloris made a decisive reflex save to deny his low strike.

Cornelius then gave Denmark the win after connecting with a lofted ball. He resisted defender William Saliba’s challenge and fired into the top corner.

In Brussels, Belgium started well but quickly faded as its preparations for the World Cup began with a worrying defensive display in the absence of their first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“Mostly we were really distracted,” Leandro Trossard said. “We gave them way too much space. When we got the ball we immediately lost it. The Netherlands have shown that they are a very strong team that can hurt everyone.”

The Oranje had 11 attempts on goal in the first half and broke the deadlock five minutes before the interval. After collecting a pass from Frenkie De Jong with his back to the goal, Steven Bergwijn quickly turned and unleashed a 25-meter strike into the net.

Romelu Lukaku endured a frustrating night, leaving the pitch after 27 minutes after getting a knock, having touched only a few balls.

Belgium's Dedryck Boyata fights for the ball with Netherlands' Memphis Depay, left, during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Belgium and the Netherlands, at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Friday, June 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Depay doubled the Netherlands’ lead after a poor pass from Dedryck Boyata was intercepted in midfield. Steven Berghuis launched the counter with a deep pass for Depay, who beat Simon Mignolet with a powerful strike.

Denzel Dumfries made it 3-0 in the 61st, and Depay completed his brace soon after from Daley Blind. Michy Batshuayi scored a consolation goal in stoppage time.

The four group winners in League A will qualify for the final four in June next year. The group winners in the lower leagues will gain promotion.