Wed, Jul 11, 2:18pm by Staff Writer
France have defeated Belgium 1-0 in the first semifinal of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to progress to Sunday’s final.
Defender Samuel Umtiti scored the winning goal early in the second half for the 1998 champions through a header from Antoine Griezmann’s corner.
Griezmann has been directly involved in 13 of France’s last 20 goals at major tournaments, with nine goals and four assists.
France are now $1.65 to claim the World Cup, ahead of England at $3.50 and Croatia at $6.50.
England and Croatia meet on Thursday morning in Moscow to determine which side will face France in the final.
France have reached the World Cup final in 1998, 2006 and now in 2018, the most of any nation in that span.
Belgium had 64 per cent possession in the match and held sway for large portions of the contest.
French keeper Hugo Lloris was forced into making a number of crucial saves. An Axel Witsel long-range drive was pushed away by the French captain, who also managed to deflect Toby Alderweireld’s turn and shot in the second half.
France played the majority of the match on the counter attack, with teenager Kylian Mbappe a threating presence throughout as he ran darting lines and was scintillating on the ball.
French coach Didier Deschamps is aiming to become only the third player in history to win the World Cup as a coach and player.
Deschamps guided France to their maiden World Cup in 1998 when they defeated Brazil 3-0 in Paris. If Les Bleus win on Sunday, he will join Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer by winning the competition as a player and coach.
Belgium were among the pre-tournament fancies to make an impact in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After knocking out Brazil in the quarterfinals, their so called ‘golden generation’ spearheaded by Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were unable to deliver silverware for their country.
Their 24-match unbeaten run, which began in September 2016, has come to an end, with manager Roberto Martinez suffering his first loss in a competitive game.
The Belgian team is full of Premier League talent, with their attention now turning towards preparation for the upcoming season, which begins in just four weeks time.
Belgium now awaits the loser of the England and Croatia match, who they will face in the third-placed playoff in Saint Petersburg on Saturday morning.
England are $2.30 favourites to win in regular time against Croatia on Thursday morning, with the Balkan nation $3.60 outsiders. The draw is paying $3.05.
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