Belgian beer can't mask the bitter taste of defeat

BRUSSELS • Amid much pride, Belgium was left to soothe its public pain.

Brussels commuters, heading to work the morning after the Red Devils' heartbreaking World Cup semi-final loss to France, had to endure the French football anthem piped through the city's metro.

The Brussels public transport authority lost a bet with its Parisian counterpart, and travellers had to listen to Tous Ensemble (All together) by the late French rocker Johnny Hallyday at 8am and 10 am.

The clash in St Petersburg was the equivalent of a derby between the neighbouring countries so the Belgians are expecting to face the music again.

"We will hear it spoken about for 100 years," Stephanie Smeets, 26, said. "The French will take the mickey out of us."

Her compatriots are also still licking their wounds after tasting bitterness in their beer on Tuesday.

"I feel ill," said Denis Backaert, 34, after watching France prevail 1-0 at an outdoor screening in Brussels. "And against France, too, that's so frustrating... I can't bear it."

In the town of Waterloo, south of the Belgian capital, thousands of crestfallen fans walked away quickly after the final whistle sounded on a giant screen.

"It's really too bad to lose to France, Belgium's national bad luck," Alice Cordier, 27, said.

Like most of the country of 11 million though, Prime Minister Charles Michel was still proud of the team's performance in Russia.

Roberto Martinez's men stunned five-time champions Brazil to reach the semi-finals for only the second time, 32 years after Argentina beat them at the same stage in Mexico.

"Bravo @BelRedDevils for your performance and having thrilled us until the semi-final," Mr Michel tweeted.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Belgian beer can't mask the bitter taste of defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe