Umtiti leads France to the final

Samuel Umtiti’s header in the 51st minute sent an impressive France into the World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Belgium in an engrossing first semifinal on Tuesday.

Didier Deschamps’ team will face England or Croatia in Moscow on Sunday as the French look to lift the trophy for the second time after their 1998 home win.

In an exciting tactical match, it was once again a play that was decisive with a header from Umtiti at the near post from an Antoine Griezmann corner that settled things.

Belgium took early control of the midfield with France happy to sit deep and eliminate the threat of counterattacks from Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne.

But it was by no means a purely negative approach, as the French offered their own danger at half-time, perfectly illustrated when Paul Pogba’s surrender sent Kylian Mbappé running towards goal and Belgium thanked their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on alert to eliminate. the risk.

The first real start came in the 16th minute when De Bruyne hooked the ball into Hazard’s path, whose shot went just wide of Huge Lloris’ far post.

Hazard was dangerous again moments later when he cut from the left and unleashed a rough drive that sliced ​​into Raphael Varane’s back and just over the crossbar.

From a Belgium corner, Toby Alderweireld put Lloris to the test with a clever kick around the corner, but as the half progressed, France began to create more.

Olivier Giroud launched a barely deflected header and Mbappé set up Benjamin Pavard, whose low shot was stopped by Courtois’s outstretched leg.

It was a fascinating first half with only one goal to go, but one came shortly after the break.

From Griezmann’s corner, Umtiti edged Marouane Fellaini at the near post and drove in a header home to put France ahead.

Fellaini launched a barely wide header and Axel Witsel forced a good save from Lloris as Belgium pushed forward for a draw and France held on in six minutes of injury time to reserve their place in the final.

France coach Didier Deschamps praised the character of his young team after they defeated Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to prepare for a World Cup final against England or Croatia in Moscow.

Samuel Umtiti’s header in the 51st minute at the Saint Petersburg Stadium sent the French to the final, where they will seek their second victory since 1998, when Deschamps captained them at home.

“It was exceptional,” Deschamps said in an interview off the court.

“I am very happy for my players, we showed character and the right mentality, it was very difficult for us tonight. We worked hard defensively.”

“We had to take a little more advantage of the counterattacks, but congratulations to my players and my staff. I am very proud of my group,” said Deschamps, who aims to join Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Brazilian Mario Zagallo as the only men to have won. the World Cup as a player and as a coach.