As It Happened: France Through To The World Cup Final After Umtiti Header (1-0)
Photo: VAVEL

As It Happened: France Through To The World Cup Final After Umtiti Header (1-0)

Jakub Bobro
France(4-3-3): Lloris; Pavard, Umtiti, Varane, Hernandez; Matuidi (Tolisso, min. 86), Kanté, Pogba; Mbappe, Giroud (N'Zonzi, min. 85), Griezmann.
Belgium(4-3-2-1): Courtois; Chadli (Batshuayi, min. 90+1), Kompany, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Dembele (Mertens, min. 60), Fellaini (Carrasco, min. 80), Witsel; De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.
SCORE1-0, min. 51, Umtiti.
REFEREEAndres Cunha (URU) Booked: Hazard (min. 63), Alderweireld (min. 71), Kanté (min. 87), Mbappe (min. 90+2), Vertonghen (min. 90+4)
Live LoaderVAVEL Live SmallLive Match

Huge celebrations by France, they are through to the World Cup final! They will face the winner of England vs Croatia a the Luzhniki stadium on Sunday. Belgium will remain in St Petersburg and play for the third place against the loser of the aforementioned match on Saturday. A lot of emotion on this football pitch.

Pogba takes it into the corner and it is full time!

90+6: Corentin Tolisso takes a shot, great save by Courtois, but the match is almost over now.

90+4: Side-to-side football. Mbappe gets pushed by a frustrated Vertonghen and he gets himself a yellow.

90+2: Kylian Mbappe gets booked for trying to time waste after a throw in for Belgium. Terrible sportsmanship.

90+1: Substitution: Nacer Chadli off for Michy Batshuayi, more bodies in the box for crosses.

90+1: Pogba wins a free kick in the corner.

6 minutes of injury time!

89: N'Zonzi clears it but only into Varane, Chadli's cross attempt is blocked, the ball is clear. Just one minute plus stoppage time left.

87: Hazard wins the foul from Kante, the midfielder gets booked. De Bruyne to take it.

85: Substitution: Olivier Giroud comes off for Steven N'Zonzi. Blaise Matuidi will also be coming off, he shouldn't have come back. Replacing him will be Corentin Tolisso in the 86th minute.

81: A great powerful shot from Axel Witsel, Lloris saves it with a punch. Matuidi and Hazard clashed, and the play is stopped, possibly a concussion evaluation for Matuidi.

80: Substitution: Marouane Fellaini is off for Yannick Carrasco, a different option.

80: Hazard goes down outside the box, it's a clear foul from Giroud and the referee was very emphatic about not calling a foul and waved it off.

76: De Bruyne finds some space on his weaker left foot and his shot misfires. Belgium have been looking for space, but France defenders have been incredible.

71: Immense pressure from Belgium finally released, just cross after cross, great defending of France. Vertonghen and Alderweireld got forward, so when the counter came from Matuidi, Alderweireld had no choice but to bring him down and get booked.

67: Mbappe finds Griezmann with a beautiful long ball across the field, he waits for Giroud's late run, but Giroud's shot is dismal, going way over the bar.

65: Mertens has been great on the right, puts in a cross to Fellaini who gets there first but can't get it on target.

63: Eden Hazard pulls down Matuidi for a tactical foul that would prevent the counter, prompting the ref to show the yellow card for the first time tonight.

62: A huge chance and some chaos for Belgium. Mertens crosses the ball in, Varane clears it, De Bruyne runs up to hit the living hell out of it, but Pogba just puts him off.

60: Substitution: Mousa Dembele comes off for Dries Mertens, an attacking change.

60: A ridiculously terrible pass from Courtois, right into the stands.

56: France have huge back-to-back chances! Mbappe is running on the counter, passes to Matuidi who only has Alderweireld and the keeper to beat, but his touch is heavy and his shot blocked. Mbappe then backheels the ball to Giroud who is right in front of Courtois, and his shot is blocked by Dembele.

54: As we await a free kick from Griezmann, the camera pans to Mick Jagger. He's out here as Belgium clear the free kick.

51: Umtiti finds himself free at the near post, runs away from Fellaini, and knocks it in past Courtois. France are ahead 1-0!


50: Matuidi passes the ball to Giroud in the box, he tries to turn Kompany, but his shot is blocked for a corner.

49: A nice piece of playmaking from Nacer Chadli, he knocks in two crosses for Lukaku and Fellaini, but the French centre-backs do well.

47: Witsel curls in a cross, Lukaku wins it over Varane but can't get it on target.

Romelu Lukaku kicks off the second half!

Apparently, France have outshot Belgium 11 to 3, which seems almost crazy. They have not dominated, and both teams are very much in it.

There have been chances for either side, but it has not been the most lively half of football, as expected this late in a World Cup. Olivier Giroud still hasn't looked in top shape, so we might see halftime substitution there from Deschamps.


45+1: De Bruyne crosses in a ball, Umtiti fails to clear it and Lukaku can't react fast enough to redirect it into the goal.

1 added minute!

45: Griezmann hits the middle of the wall, tries to put a through ball to Umtiti, but the centre-half doesn't recognize it until it's too late.

44: France win a free kick in a great position after Pogba gets pulled down by Dembélé.

42: Fellaini lost the ball to Matuidi under pressure, but the subsequent attack doesn't turn out to be very dangerous. Matuidi wins a header over Fellaini, but it's an easy save for Courtois.

39: Huge chance for France! Griezmann draws three defenders, puts Pavard through on goal, but Courtois saves with his right foot.

37: France win the ball by their box, tiki-taka their way out of trouble, Griezmann gets the ball in the half circle, runs with it, but it's another poor shot, this time just rolling wide. Giroud has stayed down injured in the midfield after a tangle with Dembélé. He goes off the field after treatment from physios, but no subs warming up for France.

34: Mbappe gets a ball over the top, finds Giroud in the box, but the striker just can't get that on target somehow. He's been very good off the ball, but Giroud has struggled to take his chances, yet to score in this World Cup.

33: Very impressive pressure from France. Giroud had his shot blocked while pressured by Dembélé, appeals for a penalty. The move ends with Griezmann creating some space, but it's a terrible shot from him, nowhere near target. 

31: From the subsequent free kick, Pavard plays the ball in to Giroud, who almost redirects it on goal despite being with his back to goal. 

30: Vertonghen sticks a leg out for Mbappe, we haven't seen many fouls in this match yet. Referee Cunha gives him a very emphatic warning.

28: De Bruyne puts in a low cross, first man Varane can't get anything on it and so Umtiti must clear just in front of Lukaku.

23: Giroud gets a long ball, doesn't get enough on it to get it on target. It's been a very eventful past ten minutes, mostly thanks to Belgium, who have had 58% of the possession.

22: Alderweireld takes a shot on the turn with his left, his club teammate Lloris saves it on the full stretch. Amazing save, it must have been tough to see through all the bodies in the area.

21: De Bruyne put a cross in, looking for Fellaini and Varane heads it out again. It's been Fellaini in the box, throwing the body around and wreaking havoc.

19:  Hazard got some space from Pavard, takes a venomous shot, and it's deflected by Varane just 5 yards out from Lloris' goal while in a battle with Fellaini.

18: Matuidi takes a strong shot from afar, but no trouble for Courtois.

17: Giroud wins the ball after pressure on Alderweireld. Takes it to the corner, passes it to Matuidi inside the area, but he takes a heavy touch and is closed down by Dembélé and Witsel.

16: De Bruyne wins the ball on the edge of the box, flicks it on to Hazard, who puts the first shot of the match wide of Lloris' goal.

15:  De Bruyne drives the counter, but gives the ball away after pressure from Kanté and Umtiti.

13: Pogba puts a great through ball to Mbappe between the centre backs, but Courtois runs up and claims it.

10: A nice little ball over the top from Pogba to Mbappe, who tries to flick it on to Giroud, but Alderweireld outmuscles him.

9: France have sat back, letting Belgium have the possession for the last five minutes.

4: Belgium come forward after Vertonghen robs Pavard, he goes for a one-two with Hazard, but can't really find a hole in the tight French defence, they've been holding onto possession for a while now. Hazard was looking to cross it in, but Umtiti puts it away for a corner.

1: Right from kick-off, Mbappe skips past Dembele and gets a cross away within the first 30 seconds. Neither team will be waiting around.

Antoine Griezmann has kicked off this semifinal!

The anthems are done, the match is to kick-off shortly!

Belgium XI (4-3-2-1): Courtois; Chadli, Kompany, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Dembele, Fellaini, Witsel; De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.

France XI (4-3-3): Lloris; Pavard, Umtiti, Varane, Hernandez; Matuidi, Kanté, Pogba; Mbappe, Giroud, Griezmann.

The starting elevens have been released! The tactics submitted by managers haven't yet, but I'll try to make sense of it.

Predicted Belgium XI (4-3-3): Courtois; Chadli, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Dembele, Fellaini; De Bruyne. Lukaku, Hazard.

Predicted France XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Matuidi, Kante; Mbappe, Griezmann, Pogba; Giroud.

This is what Roberto Martinez believes to be the key to success for Belgium: "Undoubtedly so. This group has to play with no fear at all. If we approach this match with fear within us, we will bring ourselves down and we'd be able to do so much less than what we can actually do."

Despite being retired for the past few years, but Thierry Henry has dominated the headlines, due to being a former talisman of the French national team but now serving as one of Roberto Martinez's backroom staff in the Belgian set-up, and seems to be quite an inspiration to many of the players. Here is what France manager Didier Deschamps said on the matter: “When you go to a club abroad and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy. This time, in an international match, it is much higher. He is facing his home nation. From the time he became an assistant to Roberto Martinez, he did know that can happen. It is a difficult situation – bizarre – it is not easy for him.”

This semi-final match will be the second-to-last to be hosted at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, unofficially called Kresotvsky Stadium. This stadium is one of the last two in the World Cup, alongside Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, with this semifinal and the Third Place match being held in Saint Petersburg. All 64,468 seats were sold out for three previous matches, and surely for the two upcoming. This stadium, finished in 2017, became the new home of Zenit St. Petersburg, and that will be its function after the tournament.

Belgium's Round of 16 win over Japan was very unconvincing, going down 0-2 within the first 10 minutes of the second half and having to rely on Nacer Chadli to get a winner in the 4th minute of injury time. All of those worries were washed away with a tactical change against Brazil by  Roberto Martinez, switching to a back four and moving Kevin De Bruyne into a more advanced position, which is how the Manchester City got in a position to score Belgium's second goal. The match ended 2-1 in Belgium's favour, and they can also be very confident coming into the semifinals.

Didier Deschamps' France looked much more organized in their 2-0 win over Uruguay. Hugo Lloris came up with an incredible save at the edge of halftime to help France keep the lead, and that proved to be key in the match. The previous match for France was a very hectic 4-3 win over Argentina, so it must be confidence-inducing to see that France can win both ways. One possible negative that six of the eight French goals came from Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, so if they're struck down by injury or efficiently marked, France might struggle for goals

These two neighbouring nations have faced each other 73 times since 1904, with Belgium winning 30, France winning 24, and 19 draws. Their last meeting was a friendly in June of 2015, at the Stade De France in Paris. Of the starting lineup, France have brought five players to Russia, Belgium brought seven. The game was a goal explosion, finishing 4-3 in Belgium's favour. Belgium actually went 3-0 up after a Marouane Fellaini brace and a goal from Radja Nainggolan. Mathieu Valbuena put France back in it, but Eden Hazard seemingly locked it up with a 54th-minute goal to make it 4-1. Nabil Fekir and Dimitri Payet got two goals for France in the final two minutes, but it wasn't enough.

Hello and welcome to VAVEL UK's live minute-by-minute match coverage and commentary. Today, Tuesday, 10th July 2018, sees France face off with Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. This evening's game kicks off at 19:00 BST, the first semifinal. Until then - we'll have plenty of pre-match build-up and analysis from me, Jakub Bobro. Make sure you stay following.