In the first of the semi-finals scheduled at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, France overcome northern neighbors Belgium to book their spot in the World Cup final. A 51st minute goal by Samuel Umtiti and some massive saves by captain Hugo Lloris saw France through a tough test as the Belgians refused to give up until the final whistle.
Belgium dominate the first half but can't find a goal
Belgium started off the game as the team on top and continued to push France onto the back foot. Whether that was a tactical plan by Didier Deschamps to then use Kylian Mbappé's speed on the counter or not, is unknown but Belgium were determined to push forward right from the start. Eden Hazard in particular was driving his team forward and caused France all sorts of problems early on. With just over 15 minutes of the game played, the Chelsea FC man drove towards goal but only could find the side netting but for a moment, alarm bells were ringing for France. As Belgium began to really turn the screw on France, Raphaël Varane was called upon next to make a great flicked ahead over his own goal to prevent Kevin De Bruyne from a certain goal. The defender had been marking Maruoane Fellaini but still had the presence of mind to avert the danger.
After those early chances, it became a battle between the two goalkeepers, Lloris and Thibaut Courtois. Both teams had fantastic chances to put themselves ahead but on every occasion, Lloris and Courtois were there to make seemingly impossible saves and keep the scoreline at 0-0. Of the two sides, Belgium had the more clear opportunities but a lack of cutting edge and some out-of-this-world goalkeeping by Lloris kept France in the game. Those saves would prove vital in the second half for France.
France see out the game as Belgium wilter
The second half played out in a similar manner to that of the first as France were content to sit back and defend stoutly while trying to use their pace on the counter to get the knock-out blow. Their transitional play did cause Belgium problems but it was a set piece that broke the deadlock. Unlike Nacer Chadli who did not complete a single one of his five corners all game, Antoine Griezmann found his man, Samuel Umtiti, making a near post run in the 51st minute. The French defender beat his marker to the ball before sending a powerful header past Courtois.
After they got the goal they were looking for, France were determined not to give Belgium any chances to equalize and even when the Belgians did find some space in and around the area, Lloris was there to keep France ahead. As time wore on Belgium were clearly running out of ideas and the effort they had put in against Brazil previously began to show as they visibly tired.
The result ends Belgium fairytale run in the World Cup where they had thrilled fans and neutrals alike. France now have made their second consecutive final in a major tournament and will look towards the other semi-final tomorrow to see who they will be up against.