France edges Belgium, advances to World Cup final


Hazard's ability to pass a man easily was highlighted in the first half, as the Chelsea man caused huge problems in the early part of the match for the French defence, while Mbappe's brilliance coming off the right wing showed that he is arguably the better option, as the 19-year-old gave Jan Vertonghen a torrid time in parts this evening, and the Paris Saint-Germain striker is sure to be at the top of Real's shopping list.

His involvement at Russian Federation 2018 may have ended some time ago but Cristiano Ronaldo sent tremors around the football world on Tuesday when news broke of his decision to leave Real Madrid for Juventus.

Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header in the semifinal sent the French into the final, where they will be seeking their second win since 1998.

"I do not care about the Ballon d'Or, I want the World Cup".

For all its possession, Belgium - the top scorers in this competition - were unable to break a robust French defense and will rue not capitalizing on its dominant first-half display. In the end, Umtiti's goal was enough to secure a place in the Moscow final and a meeting with either England or Croatia on Sunday.

Tuesday's game has an added twist of intrigue in that the French and Belgian players know each other so well.

Even through the first 30 minutes in St. Petersburg, this side had looked different, carving out chances and containing France's counterattacks. "The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal", he said.

France opened the second half with intent.

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"It was a dead ball situation which was the difference", Martinez told reporters after the game.

With the likes of Mbappe, Griezmann and Giroud for France facing off against Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne for Belgium, there just has to be goals in this one.

The French danced on the field after the final whistle and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 but had been hoping to eliminate his native country as Belgium's assistant coach.

That stayed the case until France took the lead with a thunderous header from Barcelona centre-back, Samuel Umtiti.

Olivier Giroud provides a focal point in attack. Marouane Fellaini was also slow to react when Umtiti scored with a near-post header.

The potential of a goal-fest is high, considering the attacking strength of European neighbours, France and Belgium, when they meet today in the World Cup semifinals.

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Chadli, Dembele, Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Eden Hazard.

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