France reach World Cup final for third time

Danny Woods
July 11, 2018

Samuel Umtiti of France celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between Belgium and France at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He did not play in the final at the Stade de France, but was in the team which won the European Championship final against Italy two years later in Rotterdam.

Eden Hazard has slammed France for their supposed negative tactics during their World Cup semi final win over Belgium.

The French goalkeeper and captain was the standout performer for the victors this evening.

But the worrying factor for Croatia or England is that France still look to have another gear to move into.

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"We showed character and mentality, it was very hard for us tonight".

"I think the Belgian team is the most exhaustive team in all aspects of the game during this tournament - they are strong everywhere".

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez was left frustrated by his team missing out to a set-piece goal, a familiar outcome in this tournament.

"He's brought something we didn't have", said Spanish coach Martinez.

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Belgium had 64 percent possession but struggled with the speed of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, while its midfield was outclassed by Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante.

In a way, France are over-dependent on Mbappe to create attacks from the right wing due to his marvelous pace.

He found himself an inch of space as Kevin de Bruyne threaded him through with a deft touch but the forward was unable to find the mark.

Belgium threatened down the flanks and Eden Hazard put in a unsafe cross which was turned behind by Umtiti - though the resulting corner was wasted by Nacer Chadli, playing in an unfamiliar right-back role.

Henry, France's all-time top scorer, and second-most-capped player after Lilian Thuram, is trying to help Martinez mastermind a win over his own nation. Benjamin Pavard was slipped through by a fine Mbappe ball, but Courtois stuck out a leg and deflected his shot wide. Two goals were enough for both semifinalist to get them here.

France will start the semi-final in Saint Petersburg as favourites, with an impressive mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final.

He added that he was proud of his squad, as they lost "with a lot of effort", and that he congratulated France and wished them luck in the final.

"Because of the seven years I spent in France I feel 99 percent Belgian and one percent French, but the idea of taking French nationality never crossed my mind" Hazard once said when asked about the possibility.

"It could be a little bit hard but he's working for Belgium now and he wants us to win".

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