The Hush Post: France defeated Belgium 1-0 in the semi-final in the run-up to the World Cup final. Now, France will fight England or Croatia in the World Cup final after edging past European neighbours Belgium in the semi-final in St Petersburg.
Defender Samuel Umtiti scored the winning goal in the second half with a towering header from Antoine Griezmann’s corner. Samuel Umtiti was the unlikely hero as France, the 1998 champions, reached the World Cup final for the third time in 20 years. This was Umtiti’s third international goal. “It’s me that scored,” Umtiti said, “but we all delivered a big game”. France’s players danced on the field after the final whistle and their fans sang in the stands long past the end of the match, surrounded by yellow-clad security.
Didier Deschamps’ side were on the back foot for large periods of the game, but emerged victorious to reach their third final, having been beaten by Italy on penalties in 2006.
Goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois both made smart saves to make sure an intriguing game remained scoreless at the interval.
Belgium pushed hard for an equaliser but Roberto Martinez watched on as his team suffered their first defeat in 25 outings. Belgium had reached the quarter-finals by defeating Brazil.
France had started off the tournament unconvincingly, slogging their way through group stage games that should have been easy. The 4-3 thriller over Argentina was Mbappé’s moment, and the entire French team basked in the glow of his performance. Their 2-0 victory over Uruguay was a quieter affair. They played coolly, clinically, competently, but without a gritty, passionate drive.
England will play Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in the second semi-final on Wednesday, and the final will take place at the same venue on Sunday.