Monday , 16 July 2018
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France leave Red Devils in fire; advance to finals
Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (R) eyes the ball as he fails to stop the goal scored by France's defender Samuel Umtiti (unseen) during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between France and Belgium at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on July 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS

France leave Red Devils in fire; advance to finals

AGENCIES

 

SAINT PETERSBURG

Buoyed by a Umtiti header in the second half, France moved to the finals of the FIFA World Cup defeating Belgium by a solitary goal at Saint Petersburg stadium on Tuesday.

France pushed from the opening whistle, with Mbappe surging down the right-hand side and delivering a cross intended for Griezmann, only for a Belgium defender to clear in time.

Belgium enjoyed its first foray forward in the third minute, through De Bruyne who was at the thick of action.

First, his pass out right set up Nacer Chadli for a crossing opportunity, and off the ensuing block and throw-in, De Bruyne delivered a dangerous ball through the box, which ultimately didn’t trouble the French defense.

Belgium continued to press two minutes later, with Hazard being the playmaker. His run down the left ended with a dangerous cross to the near post, which Samuel Umtiti was forced to put out for a corner.

France looked to spring using its pace on the other side in the 13th minute on a play created by Pogba. He beat his defender in the midfield before sliding a pinpoint through ball down the center for Mbappe to run onto, only for Thibaut Courtois to come racing off his line and claim the ball at the edge of the box.

The end-to-end action continued with Belgium threatening in the 15th minute. De Bruyne found Hazard on the left side of the box, where he turned and fired a chance that just missed the far post.

Belgium threatened again in the 21st minute. Off a corner kick that wasn’t dealt with cleanly, the ball fell for Toby Alderweireld, who appeared to put a blast inside the far netting. Hugo Lloris made a sensational, full-extension save going to his right, though, to keep it out and keep the match scoreless.

France came close in the 30th minute off a designed set play. Griezmann played a free kick short and to the right to Benjamin Pavard, who chipped in a ball for Olivier Giroud. The French forward got a glancing head to the ball, but he pushed it wide right of the post.

Giroud nearly scored three minutes later after Mbappe got in behind the defense and hit a first-time cross trying to find his center forward instead. Giroud couldn’t get the timing down and he went to ground pushing the chance right of the frame.

France delivered the breakthrough in the 51st minute. It came off a corner kick, like so many goals at this World Cup have, as Umtiti made a darting near-post run and beat Marouane Fellaini to the spot, beating Courtois to make it 1-0.

Mbappe served up a neat pass for what nearly made it 2-0 minutes later. With his back to goal, Mbappe delivered a pinpoint back-heel into Giroud’s path, with only a desperate tackle preventing a clean look on goal.

Lloris was called into action for France in the 81st minute to deny a Belgium equalizer from Axel Witsel, who laced a powerful chance from outside the box on goal, only for the France goalkeeper to come up with a strong punch to deny the chance.

Griezmann looked to have the space to ice the match in the 93rd minute, cutting across the top of the box before hooking a right-footed chance on frame, but Courtois was able to get down and make the save, keeping Belgium within one.

Thus, ended Belgium’s fight back and a gallant display through FIFA World Cup 2018. France now awaits the winner of today’s second semifinal between Croatia and England.

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