France vs Belgium: A 'Final Quality' Match

Wednesday, 11 Jul, 2018

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.

Hundreds of thousands of fans poured on to the Champs Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe as bars, cafes and restaurants enjoyed a bumper evening of revelry after the World Cup equivalent of a local derby between the neighbouring rivals. Yes, the likenesses between Kylian Mbappe and Henry are uncanny, except that Mbappe is still a teenager while stamping his mark on this tournament, while, 20 years ago, in France, Henry was a year older.

"Vive la France! Vive la Republique!"

Belgium looked the more risky side for much of the first half. "We worked very hard". If there is a blot on their campaign, it has to be how Romelu Lukaku failed to make any dents on France given his hot scoring form in the group stage.

As is the case in the geographic sense, in which France and Belgium share a border, there's no apparent distance between the teams.

Umtiti's goal, a header from a Griezmann corner, was the 69th at this World Cup to be scored from a set piece, out of the total 158.

At the final whistle, there were congratulations and commiserations for and from Henry as he hugged and spoke with players on both sides.

France are back in the World Cup final for the first time since 2006 after defeating Belgium 1-0 in the last four in St. Petersburg.

Deschamps, coach at Euro 2016 and captain of the 1998 World Cup winners, suggested as much.

After reaching the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016, Belgium again missed the chance to get to an worldwide final and has yet to fulfil its lofty expectations.

Thibaut Courtois rushed from his goal just in time to save Vertonghen again from Mbappe's pace on 12 minutes, but it was Belgium who started the better in possession.

With Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar no longer in Russia, Eden Hazard and Mbappe have taken over as the stars of the World Cup and there was a buzz every time either got the ball. "This is not how you are going to move forward".

With the likes of Mbappe, Griezmann and Giroud for France facing off against Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne for Belgium, there just has to be goals in this one.

It is a game that will see a number of Premier League stars face off with as many as 16 players from both squads plying their trade in England.

"I think a very good performance by Pogba, Pogba was mature, we played with maturity when he had, to hold position and keep control of the play he did".

Along with the French and Gabonese presidents and the king and queen of Belgium, there was rock "n" roll royalty watching the game.

The European heavyweights went blow-for-blow in a largely tactical game, but it was Les Bleus who captialised on their chances to book their 2018 World Cup final berth.