France is moving on to the World Cup final for the first time since 2006. Samuel Umtiti scored the match's only goal in the 51st minute, heading one past Belgium's goalkeeper, to seal a 1-0 final.
The victorious manager, Didier Deschamps, resists making any comparison to the French team in 1998 that won the World Cup. Despite his reservations, the parallels between both squads are all too apparent at this point in the tournament. Give a listen to our discussion below as we break down France and their ability to completely shut off Belgium's attack.
Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.
Here's a snippet of the latest episode:
GRANT WAHL: Pretty impressive for France to win in a sort of different way again—or maybe similar to the Uruguay game but certainly not similar to the Argentina game—against a Belgium team that they clearly wanted to create stuff from wide areas and ... Nacer Chadli had like a bazillion crosses and completed like one.
BRIAN STRAUS: France brilliantly locked down the middle of the field with Kanté, who's simply the most reliable thing on Earth. And Paul Pogba, who had a really really nice game. He was going toe-to-toe and head-to-afro with Fellaini for a good chunk of the night. It did wonderfully. Then they let Chadli and Hazard sort of have the wings. At the beginning, you're sort of like "Wow, Hazard's getting a lot of the ball. He's dangerous. He's lively. He's pulling the strings. He's going at people. He's tilting stuff."
Then you realize, "Wait, he doesn't cross the ball ever." He's not going to score from out there and Chadli just can't cross, period. So you have a guy who won't cross and a guy who can't cross and Lukaku's nowhere near the ball. He's getting no service. They've got DeBronia kind of shadowed. They've got De Bruyne erased by Pogba, and there's kind of your game.
It was just a really well executed plan. This French team, as we've kind of lamented, waits for the opening. Waits for the chance. Waits for the bounce. And they got it with the header.
GW: For all the issues you may have had professionally tonight, your story is quite good on SI.com.
BS: I think it is a poop soufflé.
GW: Shut up, man. I just read it. I think everyone should read it ... in any case I think the point you're making in the story is a solid one, which is Didier Deschamps is sort of frustrating as a coach. He's frustrating because you feel like he's not maximizing the talent this French team has, even when they win to get to the World Cup final. And yet it's very effective.
Continue listening in the podcast above or download and subscribe to the podcast here.