France put on a defensive masterclass to deny Belgium’s golden generation a place in the 2018 World Cup Final. Samuel Umtiti’s 51st minute header was the difference between the two teams.
France had a chance after just thirty seconds when Kylian Mbappe crossed from the right hand side into Antoine Griezmann but it was cleared away by Kevin De Bruyne. Minutes later, De Bruyne sent a through ball into Nacer Chadli on the right hand side who tried to cross it into the middle but it was deflected out. With about a quarter of an hour gone, Paul Pogba sent a through ball into the path of Mbappe but he couldn’t get to it and Thibaut Courtois saved easily. Moments after, Belgium struck back with a glorious chance of their own as the excellent De Bruyne sent a through ball into the path of Hazard on the left hand side who tried a shot and narrowly missed the back post. Olivier Giroud who was poor all game got the ball after Toby Alderweireld lost it and crossed into Blaise Matuidi who missed the goal just seconds later. Matuidi got the ball back a few seconds later and shot straight at Courtois. With twenty minutes on the clock, Nacer Chadli’s corner was cleared away by the excellent Umtiti. Seconds later, De Bruyne crossed from just outside the box on the left hand side into the path of Marouane Fellaini who headed narrowly wide. A minute later, Hugo Lloris saved from a fine Alderweireld shot from Chadli’s corner before Umtiti passed into Giroud who got a foot to it but could not control it properly and it went wide. As the half hour mark approached, De Bruyne tried a cross into the box but Umtiti cleared it away whilst Griezman had a free kick wich he tapped into the path of Benjamin Pavard who crossed it into Giroud who shot wide. Antoine Griezman had a great solo effort shortly before half time when he ran nearly the entire length of the pitch only to shoot wide whilst Pavard went close too when he got onto the end of a pass from Mbappe and drew a fine save from Thibaut Courtois.
Shortly after the break, Axel Witsel crossed from the edge of the box on the left hand side into Romelu Lukaku but he could only head over as he found it difficult to get into the game. Six minutes into the half, Umtiti got onto the end of Griezman’s corner and put it into the far post, grazing the curly locks of Fellaini on it’s way in. As the hour mark approached, Mbappe left the ball into the path of Giroud who shot straight at Courtois who pulled off yet another save. Belgium responded as De Bruyne passed into substitute Dries Mertens on the right hand side and crossed it into the path of Fellaini who headed narrowly wide. With twenty minutes to go, Mertens tried a cross into the box but it was headed away by Paul Pogba who was unusually excellent in defence. Witsel tried a long shot from just outside the box after Hazard was dispossessed by Raphael Varane. Two minutes from time, De Bruyne’s free from the edge of the box on the left hand side was defelcted away by substitute, Steven Nzonzi. De Bruyne ended back up with the ball and passed it into Lukaku who just could not reach it. Injury time saw France have another couple of chances as Belgium tried desperately to score, making mistakes in the process. Griezmann got the ball from a Belgian throw-in and shot straight at Courtois before substitute, Corentin Tolisso shot from the left hand side but it was saved once again by Courtois just before the final whistle blew to send France through to the final in Moscow on Sunday.