Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

France beat Belgium to reach final in Russian Federation

France Belgium graphic France legend Thierry Henry firmly in Belgium's camp for World Cup semifinal
Stacy Diaz | 11 July, 2018, 08:47

Belgium are in uncharted territory for their World Cup semi-final with France but believe their team spirit and togetherness can ensure they carry on their extraordinary journey in Russian Federation, manager Roberto Martinez has said.

They will play the victor of tomorrow's second semi-final match between England and Croatia.

France have reached the World Cup final after beating Belgium 1-0 in St Petersburg.

"I'm pleased for him, he's someone I really appreciate", Deschamps said. "He is a living legend of French football".

However, they will take on a Red Devils squad that is widely regarded as one of the most talented they have ever possessed.

Belgium's side is blessed with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku.

With 10 minutes to go and time running out for Belgium, they were certainly unlucky not to win a free-kick after Olivier Giroud brings Hazard to ground but the ref waved for the match to continue.

The Barcelona defender Umtiti - who conceded a penalty that led to a goal in France's first match against Australia - proved an unlikely match-winner in the mold of Lilian Thuram, the defender who scored both French goals in Les Bleus' 2-1 semifinal win over Croatia in 1998.

But the potent Belgian attack gradually faded as France's rock-solid defense handed Belgium its first shutout of the tournament.

In the 19th minute, Hazard's shot from the left of the box was headed away by Raphael Varane, who had his back to the goal.

In contrast, France sleep-walked through the group stages, eking out wins over Australia and Peru before a stultifying 0-0 draw with Denmark.

France are through to the World Cup final. On each of those occasions the tournament has been hosted in Europe.

Following the victory, France will play the victor of tomorrow's game between England and Croatia.

England boss Gareth Southgate has told his players they can be bigger heroes even than the generation of 1966, which featured Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton. Of course, there are no guarantees in the World Cup, especially in 2018.

They will face the victor of England and Croatia who square off tomorrow morning at 4am. De Bruyne only has one goal thus far, but his presence has impacted every Belgian victory thus far.

Hence, France shouldn't be over-reliant on Mbappe in the semi finals.

Despite Kane's impressive tally, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has identified Raheem Sterling as England's danger man in their semi-final.

Three of the last four meetings between the sides have produced under 2.5 goals in total.

It is the kind of incisive play he displayed all season as Manchester City marched to the English Premier League title.

"I think it's too early to make any sort of assessment on the tournament", said Martinez, who extended his contract through to 2020 shortly before the World Cup.