France and Belgium fight it out for World Cup final place

The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to return to the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006.

A Umtiti header found the back of the net on a corner kick 51 minutes in for the match's lone goal, and he and his fellow defenders kept Belgium from threatening much.

After a thrilling 3-2 win over Japan during the Round of 16, Belgium had their best game of the tournament during the quarter-finals, where they dispatched Brazil to the tune of a 2-1 win where Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku looked virtually unstoppable.

France's fans sang in the stands long past the end of the match, surrounded by yellow-clad security. Both teams have the strength, speed and determination to be a FIFA World Champion, but only one can take a giant step forward to the finals.

France will face the victor of the second semifinal between England and Croatia, which kicks off on Thursday at 6am (NZ Time).

"Vive la France! Vive la Republique!" France forward Antoine Griezmann shouted during the post-match celebrations.

Belgium are the tournament's top scorers, and Martinez sprang a surprise by changing his system in the quarter-final against Brazil, moving target man Romelu Lukaku out wide so Kevin de Bruyne could operate as a "false nine".

As World Cup fever builds at home, England are avoiding the hype as the coach Gareth Southgate prepares his team in their tranquil base near Saint Petersburg for their first semi-final since 1990.

The world now gets to see France's luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.


A year later, again in Brussels, the match wasn't so close, with the hosts annihilating the French 7-0.

From 32 nations at the World Cup, four remain.

Giroud said Henry could coach France in the future and that working with Belgium would help the 40-year-old gain experience in his new career as a coach.

Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.

In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane, both centre backs, used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku.

France and Belgium have met a staggering 73 times, their first meeting having been a 3-3 draw in 1904. Fellaini adds a muscular presence in midfield next to Witsel, making the Belgium team far more balanced.

You can stream every World Cup match on fuboTV (Try for free).

But it was by no means a purely negative approach as the French offered their own danger on the break, perfectly illustrated when Paul Pogba's delivery sent Kylian Mbappe racing toward goal and Belgium were thankful their keeper Thibaut Courtois was alert to snuff out the danger.

Looking at the Opta stats used to power Sky Sports Fantasy Six-a-Side's scoring system, we pick out the players averaging the most points per game in Russian Federation so far...

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