France defeats Belgium to reach the World Cup final
Twenty years after winning the World Cup for the first time, France is heading back to the finals after Les Bleus defeated Belgium 1-0 Tuesday in the semifinal round.
Didier Deschamp’s men overcame a gifted Belgian team, dubbed the ‘golden generation’ for the talents at its disposal.
But though Belgium has the accomplished Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, France has equally brilliant players in Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
Yet for all the fizz and sparkle of the attacking talents on display at St Petersburg, it was set-piece goal from centre-back Samuel Umtiti which set France on its way to a first World Cup final since 2006.
The Barcelona man’s 51st-minute winning header made him the third French defender to score at this tournament. A portent sign perhaps, because the last time three French defenders scored at a World Cup was in 1998.
While Les Bleus prepare to face either England or Croatia for the sport’s biggest prize, Belgium must compete in the third-place playoff Saturday having suffered a first defeat in two years.
For all its possession, Belgium — the top scorers in this competition — were unable to break a robust French defense and will rue not capitalizing on its dominant first-half display.