Umtiti header sends France past Belgium and into World…

N'Golo Kante France World Cup 2018

Umtiti header sends France past Belgium and into World…

Yet for all the fizz and sparkle of the attacking talents on display at St Petersburg, it was set-piece goal from centre-back Samuel Umtiti which set France on its way to a first World Cup final since 2006.

Didier Deschamps' men ended the opening period on top, but again Olivier Giroud looked short of confidence as the focal point of the French attack.

Of the 73 meetings between the teams, Belgium have won 30 and France 24, with 19 draws between them, although if Belgium are to reach their first World Cup final they will have to do so by beating France at the tournament for the first time.

France started to liven up, creating a number of opportunities but Belgium looked the more risky side.

Belgium had beaten Brazil in the quarter-finals but were hindered by the absence of suspended right-back Thomas Meunier against the French.

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According to The Mirror, nine of the last 12 semi-finals have been 0-0 at half-time.

FW, Dries Mertens, 6 - Immediately laid on a good chance after coming on, but couldn't do enough in the latter stages.

Mbappe gave an early signal of intent when he embarked upon a fleet-footed run within seconds of the kick-off, and would go on to torment the Belgium defence throughout. Matuidi had to be subbed off after a sickening collision with Hazard.

The 19-year-old has also been suggested as a contender for the Ballon d'Or, having become the first teenager since Pele to score a few times in a World Cup game.

"It was a dead ball situation which was the difference", Martinez told reporters after the game.

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That was as close as Belgium came to taking the game to extra-time, though, as Lloris parried a long-range piledriver from Axel Witsel.

But it was by no means a purely negative approach as the French offered their own danger on the break, perfectly illustrated when Paul Pogba's delivery sent Kylian Mbappe racing towards goal and Belgium were thankful their keeper Thibaut Courtois was alert to snuff out the danger.

France sat back and looked to use the pace Mbappe on the counter attack but were nearly caught out as Hazard forced a wonderful tackle from Varane and Lloris had to beat away a vicious shot on the followup from Witsel. Benjamin Pavard was slipped through by a fine Mbappe ball, but Courtois stuck out a leg and deflected his shot wide.

After finding opportunities, but failing to score in the first half, France finally broke through with the decisive goal from Samuel Umtiti in the 51st minute.

Umtiti beat Marouane Fellaini to an Antoine Griezmann cross he headed what would prove to be the decider.

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Belgium was attempting to reach their first-ever final after defeating favorite Brazil in the quarterfinals.

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