France beats Belgium in a tightly contested semi-final for a chance to win their first World Cup in 20 Years

In the end, Belgium could not muster the comeback that they threatened, and France will head to the final on Saturday, their first since 1998 when they hosted the world cup courtesy of a Samuel Umtiti headed goal.

See also:

Croatia and England battle past the Quarterfinals to set up a Semi-final date

France line-up: Lloris, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, L. Hernandez, N’Golo Kante, Pogba, Matuidi, Mbappe, Griezmann, Giroud (4-4-1-1)

Belgium line-up: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Chadli, Witsel, Fellaini, Dembele, De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku (3-5-2)

Belgium lined up in a 3-5-2 formation that had De Bruyne playing in an unfamiliar left wing-back position in place of Chadli who shifted to the right back position in place of the suspended Thomas Meunier, while France stuck with the same 11 who blitzed past Uruguay in the quarter-final.

The Belgians looked more threatening early on, with de Bruyne, in particular, causing problems in the left wing position, but aside from a hazard shot in the 16th minute, they did not particularly threaten the France goal. France’s tactic seemed to be to hit hopeful long balls from midfield to Giroud and Mbappe, but none of the balls would fall right.

Toby Alderweireld had a superb opportunity to score in the 22nd minute, but his Tottenham teammate Hugo Lloris made a superb save to keep his side in the game. Olivier Giroud did have a sight at the goal half an hour into, but couldn’t capitalize and miskicked a cross from Mbappe after another long ball from the midfield. Minutes later, Hazard sent in a shot from the left side of midfield that Varane headed over as the game opened up a bit.

France should have taken the lead in the fortieth minute as Pavard was played in by Kylian Mbappe, but Courtois stayed big and made a crucial save. The game went into halftime, with France in the ascendancy.

The second half started with a high tempo, and just five minutes after the restart, France had a corner on the right side which Griezmann hit an inswinging cross. Samuel Umtiti rose highest past Marouane Fellaini and smashed in a header past Courtois.

Belgium tried in vain to conjure a response, and in the 60th minute their coach Roberto Martinez brought in Dries Mertens for Mousa Dembele to add some urgency to the attack. He almost had an immediate impact, sending in a cross that Fellaini could not put past the keeper.

France looked comfortable in defense as Belgium tried to push for an equalizer, and even the substitutes Carrasco for Fellaini and Batshuayi for Chadli could not make a difference when brought on with only ten minutes to go could not force the issue. They saw their way out the tournament comfortably, with Kylian Mbappe especially causing a huge nuisance and earning a booking for a blatant waste of time.

In the end, Tolisso almost had the chance to twist the knife and score a second, but his shot was well saved by Courtois. France celebrated the final whistle with jubilation, and they will be looking to the second semifinal between England and Croatia knowing they are the favorites to win the tournament.


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