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France beat Belgium to reach World Cup final


France beat Belgium to reach World Cup final

Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header sent an impressive France into the World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Belgium in an absorbing first semi-final on Tuesday (Jul 10).

Didier Deschamps' side will face England or Croatia in Moscow on Sunday (Jul 15) as the French look to lift the trophy for the second time following their triumph on home soil in 1998.

In an enthralling tactical match, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti's near-post header from an Antoine Griezmann corner settling matters.

Belgium took early control of midfield with France content to sit deep and eliminate the threat of counter-attacks from Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne.

But it was by no means a purely negative approach as the French offered their own danger on the break, perfectly illustrated when Paul Pogba’s delivery sent Kylian Mbappe racing towards goal and Belgium were thankful their keeper Thibaut Courtois was alert to snuff out the danger.

The first real opening came in the 16th minute when De Bruyne hooked the ball into the path of Hazard whose shot was just wide of Huge Lloris’s far post.

Hazard was dangerous again moments later when he cut in from the left and unleashed a rasping drive which clipped off the back of Raphael Varane and just over the bar.

From a Belgium corner, Toby Alderweireld tested Lloris with a smart shot on the turn but as the half progressed France began to create more.

Olivier Giroud flashed a header just wide and Mbappe set up Benjamin Pavard whose low shot was kept out by the outstretched leg of Courtois.

It was a fascinating first half and all that was missing was a goal but one came soon after the break.

From Griezmann's corner, Umtiti beat Marouane Fellaini at the near post and powered a header home to put France ahead.

Fellaini flashed a header just wide and Axel Witsel forced a good save out of Lloris as Belgium pushed forward for an equaliser and France hung on in six minutes of stoppage time to book their place in the final. 

Man of the match - Raphael Varane (France)

The stats

* France have reached their third World Cup final, also doing so in 1998 and 2006. Only Germany (8) and Italy (6) have reached more among European nations.

* Since reaching their first in 1998, France have now reached more World Cup finals than any other nation (3).

* This was Belgium's first defeat of any kind since a friendly loss against Spain in September 2016.

* France have beaten Belgium three times in World Cup matches, more than they've beaten any other side in the competition.

* 44% of the goals at the 2018 World Cup have come from set piece situations (69/158, including penalties).

* Despite having almost two-thirds of the possession in this match (64%), Belgium attempted just nine shots - 10 fewer than France managed (19).

* Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 20 competitive games for France (12 goals, 8 assists).

* Griezmann has been directly involved in 13 of France's last 20 goals scored in major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), with nine goals and four assists.

* Only England's Harry Kane (6 goals) has been involved in more goals at the 2018 World Cup than France's Griezmann (5: 3 goals, 2 assists).

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