- France book their place in their first World Cup Final for 12 years
- Umtiti header sees off Belgium in well-fought encounter
- Les Bleus to face England or Croatia on 15 July
Samuel Umtiti’s headed winner has returned France to the FIFA World Cup™ Final for the third time in 20 years, sealing a 1-0 win over Belgium in Saint Petersburg.
The first half saw chances at either end, with Belgium captain Eden Hazard going close before Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois denied Toby Alderweireld and Benjamin Pavard respectively to ensure the opening period ended all square.
Having seen the best chances come from defenders, it was apt that a centre-half opened the scoring. After Raphael Varane performed heroics in the quarter-finals against Uruguay, this time it was Umtiti, stealing a march on his marker Marouane Fellaini to meet Antoine Griezmann’s corner at the near post and flick a header beyond Thibaut Courtois.
Once ahead, France locked down, robbing the Red Devils’ star names of space to pick through in the final third, grinding down the clock – while looking to strike on the counter – until their place in the Moscow finale was confirmed.
Team reporter analysis
Adrien Gingold, with France [Follow on Twitter]
France continue their brilliant showing as they avoided falling into Belgium’s trap. After the Red Devils had dominated the first half, largely thanks to an awesome Eden Hazard, France took responsibility and controlled the match in the second. Didier Deschamps’s team has many faces to it, but they are all smiling now.
Simon Massart, Belgium [Follow: Twitter]
Having a collection of great players individually does not guarantee anything. France and Belgium both have those resources but the former clearly managed get the most out of them in a collective fashion. When the goalkeepers are having a good day, the defence is organised and the rest of the players are very focused, the difference is often just a few small moments. Samuel Umtiti was that difference today. The Red Devils did not manage to find any holes in the French defensive wall when they needed to most.
Budweiser Man of the Match
The difference up front and rock solid at the back, Samuel Umtiti played the pivotal role in sending France into the Final.
11 – No coach has ever taken charge of more France games at the World Cup than Didier Deschamps. Having moved beyond Raymond Domenech and Michel Hidalgo on Tuesday, he will extend that record even further on Sunday.
France v England/Croatia, Final, 15 July, Moscow
Belgium v England/Croatia, Match for Third Place, 14 July, Saint Petersburg