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France beat Belgium to reach World Cup 2018 final

Samuel Umtiti of France celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between Belgium and France at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

FRANCE booked their spot in the 2018 World Cup final after a narrow 1-0 win over Belgium in the last-four in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Les Blues were on the threshold of a second World Cup final in 12 years against a Red Devils side close to their first ever major final appearance in any astute competition.

Belgium made the opening entries as a shot from Eden Hazard flashed across goal. With France seeing little of the ball, Belgium made them play a chasing game. For France, the first shot took place on 19 minutes when Blaise Matuidi forced Thibaut Courtois to a tight save after a powerful drive just outside the box.

The Belgians continued stamping their authority and Toby Alderweireld nearly put them ahead but his shot on the turn only brought the best out of his club team-mate Hugo Lloris. Seeing no impact at the halfway stage from their star individuals Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, the French were chasing shadows.

In a rare offensive venture, one of the tournament’s breakthrough players, Benjamin Pavard saw his cross-cum shot clicking off the feet of Courtois for a corner. After a somewhat lukewarm first half display, Les Blues took the lead five minutes after halftime when Samuel Umtiti rose in front of Marouane Fellaini for a near post header.

It was almost two, but a stunning block from Moussa Dembele prevented Olivier Giroud after an outstanding flick from Mbappe. Roberto Martinez put on his tactical hat and added Dries Mertens to his attack in search of a comeback. A cross out wide picked out Fellaini but the Manchester United man failed to test Lloris.

There were another few heart wringing moments for France, none more when Lloris palmed away Axel Witsel’s long range stunner after gaining possession near the box. France had the chance to confirm the victory but Griezmann failed to beat Courtois from a central position near the box in added time.

Nevertheless, The French held on for the triumph and in so doing book their third World Cup final in their illustrious football history. –