Highlights, France vs Belgium, FIFA World Cup 2018, Semi-final 1 at Saint Petersburg: France win to reach final

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Highlights, France vs Belgium, FIFA World Cup 2018, Semi-final 1 at Saint Petersburg: France win to reach final
  • 01:56 (IST)

    So that's all for today. So one team that will compete in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 has been decided. France will take on either the winners between England and Croatia. Belgium might have deserved to have more from their campaign but today, France deserved to go. They got the goal and then organised themselves to ensure Belgium are frustrated till the end. 

    Some big players like Romelu Lukaku went missing today. Hazard and De Bruyne did well but it was just not enough. 

    We will be back with tomorrow's second semi-final. So have a good day! 

  • 01:42 (IST)

    Stats from the match!

  • 01:36 (IST)

    Magnificent Mbappe

  • 01:33 (IST)

    FRA 1-0 BEL

    Mbappe was superb tonight; the rest of the French team a bit less flamboyant, but Deschamps won't mind - all he desire is victory. He is one step away from eternal glory, 20 years after he won the World Cup as a player. At the time Les Bleus faced Brazil and won 3-0 thanks to a double header from Zidane. On Sunday, they will meet the English, spearheaded by Gareth Southgate, founder of the Order of the Navy Waistcoat, and Harry Kane, or Croatia, who hopes rest with Modric in the midfield. It should be a cracking semi-final tomorrow.

    From us here in St Petersburg, it is good night!

  • 01:30 (IST)

    Well done! 

  • FULL-TIME! FRA 1-0 BEL

    And that’s it! French players storm the pitch. Deschamps is dancing and Griezmann is in tears. Scenes of delirium: France will play the World Cup final on Sunday against the winner of tomorrow’s semi-final between England and Croatia. Axel Witsel looks utterly dejected. Ultimately, his team didn’t do enough to trouble a well-organised France. Belgium’s golden generation is just that - golden but not victorious. They reached the semis, but ultimately are not world beaters. Umtiti’s goal and France vintage defending was the difference between the two sides in a semi-final that won’t go down as a classic.

  • 01:25 (IST)

    FULL-TIME! FRA 1-0 BEL

    France are through to the World Cup final. Umtiti's second-half goal gets the job done for France. 

    Heartbreak for Belgium's golden generation.

     

  • 01:23 (IST)

    90+5' FRA 1-0 BEL

    How many saves from Courtois? He pulls off another one to deny Tolisso. 

  • 90+4' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Two nominal strikers for Belgium now. It's the final throw of the dice. They have two minutes left. At the other end, Griezmann should have done better. France trying to run down the clock with a lot of time-wasting.

  • 01:20 (IST)

    90+2' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Chance for Griezmann to finish the game off but Courtois saves it. 

  • 90' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Double sub for France, the second one - Matuidi off for Tolisso -  was enforced. Nzonzi offers more steel, as if France need more of that, in the midfield. France have the competition’s most accomplished defense. They give away very little, not even when Kevin De Bruyne lets fly a beautifully weighted diagonal for Lukaku, who can’t connect. Time is running out for Martinez and co.
     
    Six minutes of stoppage time. Also, Batshuayi comes off the bench to replace Chadli. 

  • 01:16 (IST)

    88' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Kante picks up a yellow card. Free-kick for Belgium as De Bruyne takes it and somehow, France clear it away.

    Seconds later, Lukaku almost equalised but he fails to get his head on the way of the ball.  

     

  • 01:12 (IST)

    86' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Defensive move by Deschamps. He brings in Steven Nzonsi in place of Olivier Giroud. 

     

  • 84' FRA 1-0 BEL

    What can Belgium muster? The valiant ensemble of the Low Lands has run out of ideas. That French wall - Pogba-Kante-Matuidi- has stood firm. Yes, France are top-heavy, like Belgium, but their true force is in midfield. It’s becoming feisty slowly. Eden Hazard is tripped by Olivier Giroud, in a dangerous area. That was a foul, methinks. Next Varane makes a superb tackle on Hazard, Witsel lets fly one, but Lloris saves. Martinez taking off Fellaini tells you how well France have dealt with set pieces and crosses in the box.

  • 01:09 (IST)

    81' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Bad decision by the referee. Giroud's foul on Hazard is not given just outside the box. Minutes later, Witsel's bullet from outside the box is saved by Lloris.  

  • 77' FRA 1-0 BEL

    In the last few minutes De Bruyne, who has dropped a line since the introduction of Mertens, has lost possession a number of times. His passing has become a tad forced. He is a bit too eager and Belgium need to maintain their composure. Martinez is talking to De Bruyne and giving him instructions. France have been more composed in the second half. As the Belgians try to wave their way past the opposing block, the French lurk on the counter. De Bruyne tonks one over. Fifteen minutes left.
     
    Meanwhile, Martinez to bring on Carrasco.

  • 01:04 (IST)

    Stat alert

  • 01:02 (IST)

    74' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Belgium must be feeling the pressure. This is supposed to be their golden generation of football players. They did against Japan when Belgium were down by two goals and there's no reason why they can't do it against France. 
     

  • 00:58 (IST)

    70' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Sometimes Giroud’s role is baffling. He is the ideal target man with good tenacity, but after a fluent French attack, involving Mbappe and Griezmann he blasts one over. It’s comical. He still hasn’t had an attempt on target in this match and in this tournament. At the other end, Fellaini came close with a header, but Belgium need to up the tempo and show more ingenuity in and around the box.

  • 00:53 (IST)

    65' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Mertens making quite an impact since he came on. Another good cross from the right and Fellaini's header is inches wide. 

     

  • 00:51 (IST)

    64' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Mbappe has been on fire! Imagine Neymar heading to the Spanish capital - you’d think PSG wouldn’t mind that at all with the new French princeling in prime form. He will be the face of French football for the next decade or so. That back heel to Giroud was both outrageous and gorgeous. Martinez reacts - Dembele offered little value to the team and makes way for Dries Mertens, who tends to thrive in the final third. Some trivia about Mertens: he is from my hometown (that's probably the only thing I share in common with him).

  • 00:51 (IST)

    61' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Mertens off to a good start as he crosses the ball from right. France fail to clear the ball properly as De Bruyne aims for a volley from centre of the box. A terrible effort from him as Courtois gets hold of the ball. 

    On any other day, he would've buried that.  

     

  • 00:48 (IST)

    60' FRA 1-0 BEL

    First change for Belgium. Attacking substitution as Mertens replaces Dembele. 

  • 00:46 (IST)

    56' FRA 1-0 BEL

    Goodness what a play by France. 
     
    One touch football. Hernandez to Matuidi to Mbappe to Giroud but the striker's shot is blocked. Those moves deserve a goal. 

  • 54' FRA 1-0 BEL

    It's the World Cup of set pieces! Belgium had begun on the front foot after the break, but out of the blue Umtiti scores! Delivery and goal. He beats the aerial monster Fellaini at the first post and Courtois has little time to react. It's quite a feat to outjump the tall Belgian. French minimalism trumping Belgium's expansive game. 'Allez Les Bleus' rolls down from the stands - Belgium face their biggest test yet.

  • 00:39 (IST)

    GOAL !

    51' FRA 1-0 BEL

    UMTITI!
     
    Super header from the centre-back as Griezmann delivers a brilliant corner. 

  • 00:36 (IST)

    48' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Chadli's cross from the right and Lukaku's header is off the target. Good stuff from Belgium, so far.

  • 47' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Stat alert: a monstrous first half by Eden Hazard - Passes attempted: 23. Passes completed: 23.
    Take-ons attempted: 6. Take-ons completed: 6.

  • 00:32 (IST)

    46' FRA 0-0 BEL

    it's time for second-half. No changes for both the teams.  

  • 00:24 (IST)

    More stats from first half

  • 00:20 (IST)

    First-half stats

  • Half-time FRA 0-0 BEL

    No goals at the half. It’s been intriguing and entertaining, if not entirely satisfactory. Some quick-fire observations: Belgium couldn’t maintain their intensity from the first 25 minutes with Hazard a scourge for the French back line and Pavard. The latter, interestingly, enough also contributed up front and found good pockets of space. He tested Courtois with what was France’s biggest chance of the half. The goalkeepers have been excellent here, Lloris with a very athletic save from Alderweireld. Uruguay and Argentina definitely missed this calibre of number ones in their squads. Belgium have been the better team, France, probably the more cunning, gradually playing their way into the match.

  • 00:18 (IST)

    Half-time FRA 0-0 BEL

    Seconds before the break, Umtiti's mistake almost cost his team. He fails to clear a cross from right but Lukaku takes the chance by surprise and before he controls it, the ball heads out.

  • 00:15 (IST)

    45' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Just one minute of additional time. 

     

  • 00:14 (IST)

    43' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Free-kick for France from 20 yards away. Griezmann takes aim, hits it straight to the wall.  

     

  • 00:11 (IST)

    40' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Oh what a chance for France. 
     
    Pavard gets the ball on the right. He only had Courtois to beat but the Belgium goalkeeper gets his leg on the way to deflect the ball.

  • 39' FRA 0-0 BEL

    France have settled down a bit and restored the balance somewhat, but dare I say it? The game has become a little dull. A few more minutes of this and it's a tedium. The technical and tactical level on display is no doubt high, but it's only in spells so far.

  • 37' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Stat alert (and we don't want to mock anyone): Oliver Giroud still hasn't had an attempt on target this World Cup.

  • 35' FRA 0-0 BEL

    How shall I put this diplomatically? Let’s hope the FIFA police isn’t monitoring this blog, but there is more cheer at a game of the Delhi Dynamos than at this World Cup semi-final. In fact, there is more cheer at graveyard than at the Krestovsky Stadium. Where is the place of old that so used to rock? The locals have chanted ‘Ra-si-ya, Ra-si-ya’ and the Brazilians ‘Mil gols,’ but, alas, to little avail. The spectacle on the field isn’t entirely enticing either - yes, this is a star cast, but France seem to have little interest in playing a constructive game. They are not winning many hearts here. Hugo Lloris has been one of their standout players. You’d think Pogba might want to help Pavard a little more against those incisive runs from Hazard. France have been trying to go forward in the last few minutes, but it’s all a bit imprecise.

  • 00:05 (IST)

    33' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Griezmann passes the ball to Giroud in the centre, but Dembele's pressure on the striker pays off. There are shouts of penalty but referee says no. 

  • 00:02 (IST)

    31' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Pavard's ball from the right meets Giroud, who bends low to get the header. He does really well but it's off the target. 

     

  • 00:00 (IST)

    28' FRA 0-0 BEL

    So when on the ball, Belgium are playing with back three. Chadli is going up on the right side. The formation shifts to back four when France are on the move. 

  • 24' FRA 0-0 BEL

    The introduction of Dembele shows the depth of the Belgian squad, and so does Alderweireld's attempt from inside the box. The danger is everywhere - from set pieces, from De Bruyne, from Hazard, from defenders. Les Bleus have been very timid in the face of so much Belgian attacking prowess.

  • 23:53 (IST)

    23' FRA 0-0 BEL

    SAVE! 
     
    Poor clearance from France as Alderweireld turns and hits with his left-foot. Lloris dives to his right and sends the ball away. 

  • 21' FRA 0-0 BEL

    The first clear sights of goal go to Eden Hazard. First, he preyed on some indecision at the back and fired low and just wide of the right post. Then he cut inside, past Pavard, and curled one to the far top corner. A scare for France and it’s Belgium posing all questions. Belgium look much more fluid.

  • 23:50 (IST)

    18' FRA 0-0 BEL

    France's first shot on target. Matuidi with a thumping left-footer from outside the box. The ball goes straight to Courtois' hands. 

    Meanwhile, another scoring chance for Belgium. Hazard smashes one on target from left but Lloris saves it.

     

  • 23:47 (IST)

    17' FRA 0-0 BEL

    After the first fifteen minutes, this game is settling into a pattern: Belgium boss the midfield with a dangerous Hazard on the left and France lurk on the counter.

  • 23:46 (IST)

    16' FRA 0-0 BEL

    Close! 
     
    De Bruyne passes to Hazard inside the box but the Chelsea player's shot is just wide. Tough angle for Hazard. 

  • 15' FRA 0-0 BEL

    France struggling to get on the ball. Belgium have enjoyed 62% of possession so far. Matuidi is playing very low as to shore up the France midfield. Whenever the French do venture forward, they look dangerous. Mbappe nearly got in behind just now. The atmosphere in the stadium remains poor; it 's like watching a pre-season friendly.

  • 23:44 (IST)

    13' FRA 0-0 BEL

    France getting into groove. Pogba snatches the ball in the centre, beats his marker and gives a terrific throughball to Mbappe. But Courtois ensures there's no damage. He collects the ball before Mbappe could touch it.

Preview: France look to return to the final of the World Cup for the first time since 2006, while Belgium look to confirm the promise of their 'golden generation' and reach the final for the first time.

The Belgians have won all five of their matches in Russia, scoring 14 goals and leaving Brazil and Japan by the wayside. In the quarter-final against Brazil they showed their adaptability and in the last-16 they showed their resilience by fighting back from 0-2 down against the Japanese.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has shown that he can make changes to his system, using a 4-3-2-1 for most of the tournament, but adapting to a 4-3-3 to exploit Brazil's weaknesses down the flanks.

Highlights, France vs Belgium, FIFA World Cup 2018, Semi-final 1 at Saint Petersburg: France win to reach final

France and Belgium will battle for a place in the FIFA World Cup final. AP

Martinez has succeeded where his predecessors failed by making the team greater than the sum of its parts. The Spaniard has shown great tactical pragmatism by setting up his side to suit the characteristics of his best players and exploit the weakness of opponents. This was exemplified in the team's 2-1 quarter-final victory over Brazil, when Kevin De Bruyne was deployed as a false nine while Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard where pulled wide.

It remains to be seen what system he will use against a French side that is rock solid in midfield. One change forced on Martinez is at right back where he will have to find a replacement for the suspended Thomas Meunier. Celtic's Dedryck Boyata may feature as a right-back.

Martinez dropped forward Dries Mertens against Brazil and fielded Nacer Chadli, who had scored the injury-time winning goal against Japan. Other midfield options include Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel and Yannick Carrasco.

The French drew one group game (against Denmark), but their World Cup has been one of constant progression built around goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, central defenders Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti and midfielders, N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

Olivier Giroud provides a focal point in attack. Add to that the pace of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, who will also drop back to help in the middle and Didier Deschamps has a team without any apparent weaknesses.

If Belgium persist with three central defenders, Deschamps will look to full-backs Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard to push forward and look to exploit spaces between the Belgian defensive trio of Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

France will have to be wary of Eden Hazard and De Bruyne's pace on the break. Martinez and his players have already shown they can change their formation depending on their rivals and Tuesday promises to be an absorbing tactical battle.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jul 11, 2018 01:56:31 IST

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