Monday, 19 November, 2018

Umtiti header sends streetwise France into World Cup final

2018 FIFA World Cup Prediction: France vs Belgium France vs Belgium: A 'Final Quality' Match | News
Herman Weaver | 11 July, 2018, 08:52

In an enthralling, albeit highly tactical rather than incident-packed match, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti's near-post header from an Antoine Griezmann corner settling matters.

Belgium can call upon the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, while Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have shone for France in Russian Federation.

Conversely Belgium were noticeably failing to emulate their first half form in the attacking third. France takes on its neighbors in Belgium, adding the weight of a rivalry to the already important match.

"It's been two years to try and understand these footballers, the human beings behind the footballers, and to try and get a group that shared the same ambition, not just to use the national team to improve their brand", Martinez told a news conference.

"What we didn't have is global experience, the knowhow of winning a World Cup and being expected to perform in front of the eyes of the world".

Belgium were pushing for a goal and France had to rely on a brilliant stop from Hugo Lloris after his Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld somehow got a shot off after a corner that was travelling into the top corner.

That stayed the case until France took the lead with a thunderous header from Barcelona centre-back, Samuel Umtiti.

"It's me that scored", Umtiti said, "but we all delivered a big game".

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French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian King Philippe watch the pre-match festivities in Saint Petersburg.

France sat back and looked to use the pace Mbappe on the counter attack but were nearly caught out as Hazard forced a wonderful tackle from Varane and Lloris had to beat away a vicious shot on the followup from Witsel.

In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku. According to Odds Shark, oddsmaker Bovada had France's money-line odds at +150, while Belgium was at +200.

France came through their quarter-final unscathed, and Deschamps has his entire squad to choose from, while Belgium are only slightly worse off.

Yet while Hazard - Belgium's captain - faded after a strong opening 30 minutes, Mbappe was a constant threat. Lukaku had just 22 touches of the ball. With the win, Les Bleus have secured a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final in Moscow.

Whether he plays an attacking role or more defensively, De Bruyne is instrumental in directing Belgium with his awareness and swift passes.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez: "It was a close game and it was very tight and it was going to be decided by that bit of luck in front of goal".

Well, they have to play a third-place playoff on Saturday, but they won't be world champions.

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