Final, 1-0 France: The referee blows the final whistle. France wins and advances to the World Cup 2018 final.
Les Bleus played just well enough to outlast Belgium in a hard-fought contest only Samuel Umtiti’s headed goal could settle. The teams largely canceled each other out technically, tactically and physically, but a minor concentration lapse six minutes into the second half gave Umtiti enough time and space to head his country one step further than its neighbor.
Anyone surprised the winner came from a dead-ball situation hasn’t been watching World Cup 2018 closely.
The result might represent a coming together of France’s past and present, as defenders have shown a knack for firing Les Belus into finals at recent World Cups.
France coach Didier Deschamps, one of the first graduates of his country’s national training center at Clairefontaine in the early 1990s, captained his team to victory in 1998 and has now guided it to the two most recent major-tournament finals. Past, meet present.
Belgium’s so-called “golden generation” must recover for another battle after coming agonizingly close to reaching its goal. Credit France’s N’Golo Kante for limiting Belgium’s attacking supply and Hugo Lloris for saving the few meaningful scoring the Red Devils created.
France’s young guns now are positioned to reign now and perhaps well into the future.
Man of the match: Not only did Umtiti score the winning goal, he also helped lock down Belgium’s high-powered attack. They say “defense wins championships.” Here’s how.
Next up: France will play either England or Croatia at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday in the 2018 World Cup final. Belgium will play the England vs. Croatia loser on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the 2018 World Cup third-place game.
That’s all for now, and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion coming up on NESN.com/soccer.
90th minute +6, 1-0 France: Thibaut Courtois saves Corentin Tolisso’s slowly rolled shot.
90th minute +4, 1-0 France: The referee shows Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen a yellow card for pushing over Kylian Mbappe in apparent frustration.
90th minute +3, 1-0 France: Antoine Griezmann darts toward the top of Belgium’s penalty area and shoots, but his effort rolls tamely to Thibaut Courtois.
90th minute +2, 1-0 France: Belgium makes its final substitution, with Michy Batshuayi replacing Nacer Chadli.
90th minute, 1-0 France: There will be six minutes of added time in the second half.
88th minute, 1-0 France: The referee shows France’s N’Golo Kante a yellow card, possibly for dissent or time-wasting.
86th minute, 1-0 France: Corentin Tolisso replaces Blaise Matuidi in France’s second personnel change.
86th minute, 1-0 France: Blaise Matuidi can’t continue. France needs to make another substitution.
84th minute, 1-0 France: Olivier Giroud exits, and Steven Nzonzi enters in France’s first substitution.
83rd minute, 1-0 France: Blaise Matuidi needs medical attention after receiving a blow to his head during a collision with Eden Hazard. Matuidi is walking off the field but soon returns.
81st minute, 1-0 France: Belgium’s Axel Witsel shoots powerfully on goal, but France’s Hugo Lloris punches the knuckling effort clear.
80th minute, 1-0 France: Belgium makes a second substitution. Yannick Carrasco replaces Marouane Fellaini.
The Red Devils successfully mounted a furious comeback against Japan in the Round of 16 but do they have enough strength and energy to do the same against this well-drilled France team?
71st minute, 1-0 France: Toby Alderweireld receives a yellow card for his clumsy tackle on Blaise Matuidi.
70th minute, 1-0 France: We’re pleased to report Mick Jagger is alive, well and watching the France vs. Belgium World Cup semifinal intently.
65th minute, 1-0 France: Dries Mertens is causing France problems on the right wing, as Hugo Lloris punches one of his crosses clear, and Paul Pogba redirects the other out for a corner kick.
63rd minute, 1-0 France: The referee shows Belgium’s Eden Hazard a yellow card for his tactical foul on France’s Blaise Matuidi.
60th minute, 1-0 France: Moussa Dembele departs, and Dries Mertens enters in Belgium’s first substitution.
56th minute, 1-0 France: Kylian Mbappe sets up Olivier Giroud with a delightful back-heel pass, but the France striker fails to shoot before a Belgium defender blocks his effort.
51st minute, 1-0 France: Samuel Umtiti heads Antoine Griezmann’s corner kick past Thibaut Courtois. France takes the lead early in the second half.
Umtiti represents just another way France can hurt opponents.
Umtiti also joins some illustrious company of his compatriots.
48th minute, 0-0: Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku misses the target with his header in the first goal-scoring chance of the second half. Rafael Varane’s pressure unbalanced Lukaku.
46th minute, 0-0: The second half of the France vs. Belgium World Cup 2018 semifinal is under way.
Halftime, 0-0: That’s the end of the first half. France and Belgium are goal-less.
If France’s Hugo Lloris and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois weren’t such good goalkeepers, their opponents might have scored in the first half. But the stoppers have been at the top of their respective games, and the teams remain deadlocked. The opposite is shaping up to be true with Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku and his France counterpart Olivier Giroud.
Belgium had slight possession and territorial advantages and created a number of goal-scoring chances early on, but Lloris’ and Rafael Varane’s last-ditch efforts kept the Red Devils at bay.
After withstanding Belgium’s pressure, France gradually grew into the game and created a few quality chances, the best of which Courtois dealt with fairly easily.
Quality and mental strength likely will determine the result of this game. France must do better with its chances. Belgium must capitalize on any France errors, as it has done against previous World Cup 2018 opponents.
45th minute, 0-0: The referee has added one minute of stoppage time in the first half.
39th minute, 0-0: Kylian Mbappe slides a pass forward to Benjamin Pavard, whose shot is kick-saved by Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois.
Goalkeepers are shining in this semifinal.
39th minute, 0-0: Olivier Giroud returns to the field, but he’s moving gingerly.
37th minute, 0-0: Olivier Giroud is limping off the field. The France striker looks like he needs treatment.
34th minute, 0-0: Kylian Mbappe lays a delicate pass across the face of goal for Olivier Giroud, but the misfiring France striker stumbles before shooting, and his shot doesn’t trouble Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
31st minute, 0-0: France’s Olivier Giroud heads a shot toward Belgium’s goal, but it drifts narrowly wide.
27th minute, 0-0: Patterns are starting to emerge, namely Belgium creating chances on France’s wings through the clever positional interchanges of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Meanwhile, France can pose a threat at any given moment through Kylian Mbappe’s speed and control when counter-attacking.
21st minute, 0-0: France’s Hugo Lloris denies Kevin de Bruyne’s spinning effort with a sprawling save.
19th minute, 0-0: Eden Hazard has an other chance, but France defender Rafael Varane heads the Belgium winger’s shot out for a corner kick.
19th minute, 0-0: France’s Blaise Matuidi shoots powerfully on goal, but Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is perfectly positioned to catch it cleanly.
15th minute, 0-0: Belgium’s Eden Hazard rolls a shot narrowly wide of the far post of France’s goal. The chance comes on the heels of France’s ill-timed turnover near its penalty area.
10th minute, 0-0: France lofts a pair of dangerous passes into Belgium’s penalty area, but striker Olivier Giroud can’t collect them before the Red Devils clear the danger.
Sixth minute, 0-0: The teams have played cagily in the opening minutes, with neither side imposing itself on the other.
Kickoff: The France vs. Belgium 2018 World Cup semifinal is under way.
Pregame: The teams have come onto the field for the national anthems and pregame handshakes.
Here’s France’s anthem.
And Belgium’s anthem.
Here are the starting lineups and expected formations.
1:30 p.m. ET: Neighbors sometimes have to settle things once and for all.
France and Belgium will meet Tuesday afternoon in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinals. The teams that border one another largely have fulfilled the promise with which they entered the World Cup, but one now must prove its soccer superiority over the other.
France reached the semifinal by winning all three of its Group D games, then beating Argentina in the Round of 16 and Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Tactical versatility, talent and depth are chief among reasons why France has come this far.
Belgium topped Group G with three wins before earning a comeback win over Japan in the Round of 16 and cleverly toppling Brazil in the quarterfinals. The Red Devils have relied on their impressive combination of skill and determination to reach the semifinals.
France and Belgium have met just once before at a World Cup — France won 4-2 in extra time in the 1986 third-place game. However, this game undoubtedly will dwarf their 74 previous encounters at the senior international level.
France vs. Belgium is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. Join us right here for all the action from Saint Petersburg.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Groothuis/USA TODAY Sports Images
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