France grinds way to World Cup final, edges Belgium

Wednesday, 11 Jul, 2018

France, the 1998 champions, take on Belgium in the first semi-final of World Cup 2018. France and Belgium both have those resources but the former clearly managed get the most out of them in a collective fashion. 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.

To do so, though, he must prevent France's own talented crop of Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann from following in Zidane's footsteps in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

The teams have met 73 times before with Belgium winning on 30 occasions, France 24, and 19 matches drawn. "It's going to be a man's match and we will have to step up". After a thrilling 3-2 win over Japan during the Round of 16, Belgium had their best game of the tournament during the quarter-finals, where they dispatched Brazil to the tune of a 2-1 win where Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku looked virtually unstoppable.

"It's been two years to try and understand these footballers, the human beings behind the footballers, and to try and get a group that shared the same ambition, not just to use the national team to improve their brand", Martinez told a news conference.

The biggest decision for these lineups come from Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Assistant coach Thierry Henry consoles Eden Hazard at the end of the semifinal match between France and Belgium. "It was something we'd worked on in training", Varane would later say about the goal. That was a breakthrough for France with the clock reading 51 minutes.

France have reached the World Cup final after beating Belgium 1-0 in St Petersburg. 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. Giving an insight into his managerial nous, Mourinho explained set piece training ideally fits the World Cup schedule, which results in a reduced reliance on goals from open play.

"When Deschamps took off Giroud to bring on N'Zonzi, then Pogba had more freedom but had freedom not to do silly things, he had freedom to keep the ball away from unsafe areas, to keep the ball, to assist Griezmann for a great chance, he was very very mature". But there haven't been one or two secrets to make it work, it's been common sense.

Hazard was risky again moments later when he cut in from the left and unleashed a rasping drive which clipped off the back of Raphael Varane and just over the bar.

France and Belgium haven't come this far at the 2018 FIFA World Cup via a series of flukes. The spread had France at -130, while Belgium was at +110.

Kompany, an injury-prone 32-year-old who may well have played his last World Cup in Russian Federation, believes that, despite the loss, the class of 2018 has done his nation a favor.

He also exploited the pace of Lukaku by playing him on the wing and gave De Bruyne the freedom to play a more attacking role by playing Fellaini in midfield.