A second half Samuel Umtiti header sealed France’s place in the World Cup final, as they edged Belgium 1-0 in the semi-final in Saint Petersburg
This was built-up as a clash of superstars across the pitch, it was a semi-final many were licking their lips at.
Once the players found their feet, the flair was on show as well as the outstanding goal keepers, Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium’s best opportunity of the first half came to the feet of Toby Alderweireld, not their ideal striker at goal but he was mighty close.
A corner fell to him, but he was on the turn, on his weaker foot, yet he dug out a shot heading for the corner until a superb tip away by Spurs team-mate Lloris.
Romelu Lukaku was unstoppable against Brazil, but between Raphael Varane and Umtiti they kept him at arms-length and he struggled to get any room to threaten the French goal.
Les Bleus’ best opening fell to Olivier Giroud whose unfortunate run of failing to have a shot on target continued. Antoine Griezmann robbed Kevin De Bruyne and floated a ball to Kylian Mbappe, but Giroud couldn’t convert his cross.
Mbappe was irresistibly direct down the right wing whilst the French midfield were slowly winning the battle with Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi tireless and strong.
Into the second half and on 51 minutes the break-through. Set pieces have been the source of prying open tightly-locked games in Russia, it worked once more for France. It was Varane against Uruguay, this time Umtiti met Griezmann’s corner to head past Courtois.
The Belgian frustration would grow and grow with the three-pronged resilience of Umtiti, Varane and Lloris commanding their hold on their 1-0 lead. There were little opportunities being manufactured from Roberto Martinez’s men with France brilliantly set-up to withstand the onslaught.
Despite the impending defeat, Courtois was magnificent, denying Griezmann and then superbly diving left to keep out Corentin Tolisso from sealing the game. But they didn’t need to, it was Allez Les Bleus and the end for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ unbeaten run of 22 games.
A professional, disciplined display from France takes them to their first final since 2006, they will be overwhelming favourites in Moscow where they face England or Croatia.