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Samuel Umtiti’s goal helps France edge past Belgium to enter third final

11 July 2018

The game will feature plenty of talented attackers and has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the competition.

France will now advance to Sunday's World Cup final where they will face the victor of Wednesday's semifinal match between England and Croatia. Les Bleus topped Group C without really convincing, but knockout-stage wins over Argentina and Uruguay have enhanced their credentials as serious contenders. If England beats Croatia in the second semifinal on Wednesday, then the final could see the two youngest teams in the knockout round fighting not just for this trophy but for the momentum that could then help them win more.

And that makes it easier for Martinez to switch tactics - which he's frequently prone to do - as he attempts to both create chances for his attacking lineup and stifle the threat of speedy France forwards Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. With Belgium camped in the France half, Moussa Dembele, who came in for the suspended Thomas Meunier, lost the ball and Paul Pogba nearly threaded in Mbappe but Thibaut Courtois was quickly off his line. We got in good one v one situations.

It was a two-year process for manager Roberto Martinez to harness the individual talents of Belgium's golden generation and bring them to the brink of the World Cup final, he said on Monday.

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And Lloris said at a pre-match press conference streamed on FIFA's official website: "They are an exhaustive team, they know how to do everything".

France will start the semi-final in Saint Petersburg as favourites, with an impressive mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final.

"That was the difference, but if you're going to lose, I'm so proud of the players". France legend Thierry Henry, who scored three goals as a 20-year old when France won it all in 1998, is now an assistant coach on the Belgian sideline.

People cheer and wave French flags as they gather at a fan zone in Paris on July 10, 2018 to watch the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between France and Belgium. Hazard was shown the first yellow of the game on 63 minutes when he cynically fouled Matuidi, who would have had a chance to counter. Lukaku had just 22 touches of the ball.

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Umtiti, and particularly Raphael Varane, were excellent at the back for France. This was exemplified in the team's 2-1 quarter-final victory over Brazil, when Kevin De Bruyne was deployed as a false nine while Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard where pulled wide.

Eden Hazard is one of the French academy system's finest exports in the past decade but he could be the man to end Didier Deschamps's bid for World Cup glory. The Rolling Stones frontman is a big soccer fan, having attended the World Cup final in Brazil in 2014 as well as many England games.

As Griezmann floated in the ball from the corner, Samuel Umtiti ran away from his marker, out-jumped the much taller Marouane Fellaini and headed in, sending the French crowd behind the goal into delirium in the 51st minute.

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Samuel Umtiti’s goal helps France edge past Belgium to enter third final