France storm into final to end dreams of Belgium’s golden generation

FRANCE: 1 (Umtiti 51′)
BELGIUM: 0

By Jesse Kemp-Segedin

France is the first team into the World Cup final at Russia 2018 after shutting down Belgium’s much-vaunted attack on its way to a 1-0 victory in St Petersburg.

Samuel Umtiti’s headed goal early in the second half proved the difference in a tense semi-final in which both teams went through periods of dominance.

France was looking to make its first World Cup final since the 2006 penalty shootout loss to Italy, in which Zinedine Zidane was sent off.

Belgium, on the other hand, had never made a final, with its only other semi-final appearance in 1986 when it fell to the eventual champions Argentina, led by Diego Maradona.

France started this match sitting back by conceding possession and midfield control to Belgium, wary of the danger posed by Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne on the counter-attack.

The French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was called into action in the 22nd minute when he was forced to palm Toby Alderweireld’s left-foot shot n around the right-hand upright.

At the other end, Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had just the one major first-half goal threat to deal with when he came out narrow the angle on Benjamin Pavard who was through on goal, deflecting the French fullback’s shot wide of the left-hand post.

After a relatively subdued first half, France started the second half in the best way possible.

Antoine Griezmann’s corner was met at the near-post by Umtiti whose glancing header was too quick for Courtois to react.

Belgium wrestled its way back into the match, making the French defenders’ lives uncomfortable with a flurry of crosses in towards the target men, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini.

The French defence held tight to keep its fourth clean sheet of the tournament.

France awaits the winner of the second semi-final tonight between Croatia and England, while Belgium must pick itself up from the disappointment of missing out on the final to be ready for the 3rd place play-off on Sunday morning (AEST).

Match Statistics

Possession:
France 40%-60% Belgium

Fouls:
France 6-16 Belgium

Shots on target:
France 5-3 Belgium

Corners:
France 4-5 Belgium

Team Line-ups

France: 1 Lloris (GK) (C), 2 Pavard, 4 Varane, 5 Umtiti, 6 Pogba, 7 Griezmann, 9 Giroud (85′), 10 Mbappe, 13 Kante, 15 Matuidi (86′), 21 Hernandez
Substitutes: 3 Kimpembe, 8 Lemar, 11 Dembele, 12 Tolisso (86′), 15 Nzonzi (85′), 16 Mandanda (GK), 17 Rami, 18 Fekir, 19 Sidibe, 20 Thauvin, 22 Mendy, 23 Areola (GK)

Belgium: 1 Courtois (GK), 2 Alderweireld, 4 Kompany, 5 Vertonghen, 6 Witsel, 7 De Bruyen, 8 Fellaini (80′), 9 Lukaku, 10 E. Hazard (C), 19 Dembele(60′), 22 Chadli (91′)
Substitutes: 3 Varmaelen, 11 Carrasco (80′), 12 Mignolet (GK), 12 Casteels (GK), 14 Mertens(60′), 16 T. Hazard, 17 Tielmans, 18 Januzaj, 20 Boyata, 21 Bathuayi (91′), 23 Dendoncker, 15 Meunier

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