Watch the highlights of goals and key plays as France edges Belgium for a place in the World Cup final.

By Avi Creditor
July 10, 2018

France's stars shined brightest in a talent-laden World Cup semifinal, and Les Bleus have earned the right to play for another World Cup title.

Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header off a corner kick was the difference, as France edged Belgium 1-0 in a thrilling encounter full of chances, close calls and heroic saves. France will play either England or Croatia in Moscow for the title on Saturday, July 15. It'll be looking for a second title, 20 years after winning its first. The captain in 1998, Didier Deschamps, will aim to guide Les Bleus to the trophy again, this time as their manager.

His France pushed from the opening whistle, with Kylian Mbappe surging down the right-hand side and delivering a cross intended for Antoine Griezmann, only for Belgium to clear in time before it reached its destination.

Belgium enjoyed its first foray forward in the third minute, with Kevin De Bruyne in the center of the action. First, his pass out right set up Nacer Chadli for a crossing opportunity, and off the ensuing block and throw-in, De Bruyne delivered a dangerous ball through the box, which ultimately didn't trouble the French defense.

Belgium continued to press two minutes later, with Eden Hazard the catalyst. His run down the left ended with a dangerous cross to the near post, which Umtiti was forced to put out for a corner–and very nearly steered into his own net.

France looked to spring using its pace on the other side in the 13th minute on a play created by Paul Pogba. He beat his defender in the midfield before sliding a pinpoint throughball down the center for Mbappe to run onto, only for Thibaut Courtois to come racing off his line and claim the ball at the edge of the box first.

The end-to-end action continued with Belgium threatening in the 15th minute. De Bruyne found Hazard on the left side of the box, where he turned and fired a chance that just missed the far post. Replays showed he had Romelu Lukaku open at the penalty spot had he cut back a cross instead of shooting.

Both teams kept on trading chances. On France's end, Blaise Matuidi put the first shot of the match on frame, when a cleared throw-in fell to him for a low 20-yard volley that was saved by Courtois. On the other side, Hazard blasted a shot that looked destined to tuck under the crossbar, but Raphael Varane's desperate glancing header did enough to steer it over the bar. 

Belgium threatened again in the 21st minute. Off a corner kick that wasn't dealt with cleanly, the ball fell for Toby Alderweireld, who appeared to put a blast inside the far netting. Hugo Lloris made a sensational, full-extension save going to his right, though, to keep it out and keep the match 0-0.

France came close in the 30th minute off a designed set play. Griezmann played a free kick short and to the right to Benjamin Pavard, who chipped in a ball for Olivier Giroud. The French forward got a glancing head to the ball, but he pushed it wide right of the post.

Giroud nearly scored three minutes later after Mbappe got in behind the defense and hit a first-time cross of a ball out of the air, trying to find his center forward in stread. Giroud couldn't get the timing down and he went to ground to slide it on target, instead pushing the chance right of the frame.

France pushed again for the opener in the 40th minute. Again, it was Mbappe providing the service, with a lovely ball forward for the right back Pavard on the give-and-go. His close-range chance was denied by Courtois's acrobatic kick save, though, preserving the 0-0 scoreline.

France delivered the breakthrough in the 51st minute. It came off a corner kick, like so many goals at this World Cup have, as Umtiti made a darting near-post run and beat Marouane Fellaini to the spot, beating Courtois to make it 1-0.

Mbappe served up a beautiful pass for what nearly made it 2-0 minutes later. With his back to goal, Mbappe delivered a pinpoint back-heel into Giroud's path, with only a desperation tackle preventing a clean look on goal.

Lloris was called into action in the 81st minute to deny a Belgium equalizer from Axel Witsel, who laced a powerful chance from outside the box on goal, only for the France goalkeeper to come up with a strong punch to deny the chance.

Griezmann looked to have the space to ice the match in the 93rd minute, cutting across the top of the box before hooking a right-footed chance on frame, but Courtois was able to get down and make the save, keeping Belgium within one. Courtois saved again from substitute Corentin Tolisso in the dying moments of stoppage time, but the time spent in taking the corner kick killed off the remaining seconds, securing France's place in the final.


Here were the lineups for both teams:


Here are the rosters for both sides:

FRANCE

Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola (PSG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)

Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

Manager: Didier Deschamps

BELGIUM

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Borussia Dortmund), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli)

Manager: Roberto Martinez

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