Samuel Umtiti’s header proved to be the difference as France beat Belgium 1-0 to book their place in Sunday’s World Cup final against Croatia or England.
Two years after they made the final of Euro 2016 they hosted in France, Les Bleus again made it all the way to the final - and they're now 4/6 favourites to lift the World Cup against England or Croatia in Moscow on Sunday.
There was hardly anything between the two talented sets of players so it was no surprise to see a set piece proving the difference as Umtiti headed in from a 51st-minute corner that eventually proved to be the winner.
Belgium dominated for large spells of the game and Hugo Lloris made a number of saves, including a magnificent flying stop in the first half, while France had their chances mainly on the break on the back of Kylian Mbappe’s extreme pace.
In the mirror of coach Didier Deschamps, France showed great discipline in defence, being happy to sit deep and soak up pressure with Paul Pogba excellent in his defensive work and Raphael Varane foot perfect in the heart of the defence.
Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann both missed chances to settle the game, while Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard prodded and probed but could not find a way through the French defence, which totally shut down Romelu Lukaku.
Thibaut Courtois made a few good saves himself late one, but could not stop Umtiti's near post header, which was the 69th set piece goal scored out a total of 158 in the tournament so far - illustrating how important they've been in Russia.
- France have reached their third World Cup final, also doing so in 1998 and 2006. Only Germany (8) and Italy (6) have reached more among European nations.
- Since reaching their first in 1998, France have now reached more World Cup finals than any other nation (3).
- This was Belgium’s first defeat of any kind since a friendly defeat against Spain in September 2016.
- France have beaten Belgium three times in World Cup matches, more than they’ve beaten any other side in the competition.
- 44% of the goals at the 2018 World Cup have come from set piece situations (69/158, including penalties).
- Despite having almost two-thirds of the possession in this match (64%), Belgium attempted just nine shots – 10 fewer than France managed (19).
- Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 20 competitive games for France (12 goals, 8 assists).
- Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in 13 of France’s last 20 goals scored in major tournaments (World Cup and EUROs), with nine goals and four assists.
- Only England’s Harry Kane (6 goals) has been involved in more goals at the 2018 World Cup than France’s Antoine Griezmann (5 – 3 goals, 2 assists).
- France’s Olivier Giroud has had 13 shots in the 2018 World Cup, but none have been on target. Since 1966, no player has had more attempts in a single tournament without getting one on target.