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France vs Belgium | How Two perfect opponents played out an Imperfect Clash for the place in the finals

France Vs Belgium, FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia

France reached their third final of World Cup with 1-0 victory over Belgium in first semi-final of FIFA World Cup on Tuesday evening.

Samuel Umtiti scored only goal of the match with thumping header from Antoine Griezmann’s corner. Some splendid saves from both goalkeepers Loris and Courtois kept this match limited to only one goal.

Belgium tried their best in both halves with plenty of possession and chances but failed in final third to reach their first ever final in Belgium footballing history. France now have reached in finals for 3rd times, more than any Nation in last 20 years. France World Cup winning legend Thierry Henry was at center of attention at Saint Petersburg Stadium in role of assistant manager of Belgium.

For France Didier Deschamps made just one change prior to this fixture. As expected Blaise Matuidi came in place of Corentin Tolisso after serving his one match suspension. Despite some strong criticism Oliver Giroud kept his place in squad up front as Chelsea striker has failed to score in his five appearances in Russia. Manchester United midfielder continued in midfield after his impressive performance against Uruguay alongside Chelsea’s midfielder Ngolo Kante. Once again impressive youngster Benjamin Pavard started ahead of Sidibe on right back position.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez had to made change as regular right wing back Thomas Meunier was suspended for this fixture as Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dembele came in for place of him. This situation made Martinez to change formation to 3-4-1-1, Nacer Chadli and Eden Hazard playing on wings. Romelu Lukaku once again started up front with support of playmaker Kevin De Bruyene.

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First half played out with plenty of intensity from both teams in effort to take early lead and that stayed till full time whistle. Belgium was in control of possession in early minutes of first half. Eden Hazard up against right back Pavard was intriguing clash as former passed sharply around Pavard into the box but blocked by Umtiti to win corner. First chance for Belgium came with lightning speed of Kylian Mbappe, as forward received nice through ball from Pogba and charged it towards goal with some pace but outrushing Courtois denied him.

At other end De Bruyene played wonderful pass in path of Eden Hazard who tricked Pavard again before shooting wide of post. With chances started coming to both end of pitch but it was Belgium who were building gameplay and France sitting deep with hope of counter attack. Juventus midfielder tried his luck from range but his effort was directly into the hands of Courtois. Eden Hazard again came close after beating Pavard, which saw him cutting inside from left and shooting powerful effort on target but it was headed over the bar from Raphael Varane.

As predicted De Bruyene and Eden Hazard started showing their worth in form of creating chances. De Bruyene then won corner after his effort punched away by goalkeeper Hugo Loris. From resulting corner Alderweireld gathers loose ball and blasted his left foot shot o goal but his club teammate Hugo Loris made spectacular save with diving reflexes on right side. Minute later Giroud missed to take lead as Umtiti’s long ball was always flying little high for Giroud’s feet.

Griezman then played sliding pass to Mbappe who cleverly back heeled in path of striker Oliver Giroud but he failed to make any of it. That was some really wonderful move from front trio of France. With five minutes remaining to half time, Pavard had chance to take lead after breaking into box with some one to one passes with Mbappe on right side had only Courtois to past ball but goalkeeper made nice block with his feet. In last minute of first half Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku had chance to score who had been very quiet in first half but misread ball as another opportunity passed away.

Both teams played wonderful and enjoying football in first half as both goalkeepers were kept busy by the likes of Hazard and Griezmann.

Belgium started second half with Romelu Lukaku heading his effort into the crowd after receiving wonderful cross from Axel Witsel. Two minute later France were leading 1-0 with Samuel Umtiti. From corner Antoine Griezmann swoops a cross into the box which met by Umtiti’s head who was marked by Fellaini and then into the net.

Matuidi had chance to increase lead for France but was well blocked by Varane after receiving cross from Mbappe who was giving some nightmares to Belgium defense. Belgium responded with first change of match by bringing Dries Mertens in place of ineffective Moussa Dembele. Mertens made immediate impact with sending cross into the box for Fellaini but latter headed it off the target.

Mbappe then skilled away from Bruyene and found Griezmann, Griezmann then played it into the both of striker Giroud but again latter missed to score his first goal in Russia. With just fifteen minutes remaining for Belgium, De Bruyene tried his luck from range but his effort was well into the crowd. In last five minutes France used their substitutions cleverly giving no time to Belgium to build something.

That gave Belgium to move more payers forward but no chance in extra minute to create something. At last minute of extra time France has chance to make 2-0 but Courtois made fantastic save to deny Tolisso to concede corner. That was last move of the match as Les Blues winning 1-0.

Both team played their best football with plenty of entertainment but it was France who earned Final spot. They will now face either Croatia or their traditional rivals England, both are up against in second semi final on Wednesday evening.

Man of the Match: (Samuel Umtiti, one goal)

 

 


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Sumeet Kavthale
Diploma in Indian Football Management. Die hard Stoke City fan but it is all about living and breathing Football. Football blogger.

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