Football

France 1-0 Belgium: Player ratings

France secured their spot in the 2018 World Cup final after defeating Belgium 1-0 in their semi-final tie at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Nacer Chadli deputised for the suspended Thomas Muenier at right wing-back, allowing Moussa Dembele to join the midfield.

The Belgians enjoyed a good start to the clash and went close to breaking the deadlock after 15 minutes as Kevin de Bruyne played in Eden Hazard, who dragged his effort just wide of the upright.

Hugo Lloris came to France’s rescue minutes later with a superb save to keep Toby Alderweireld’s snap-shot from inside the box.

The French, meanwhile, were content on sitting back in the opening stages of the half while looking to use the pace of Kylian Mbappe on the break.

Olivier Giroud went close to putting France ahead after 30 minutes when he steered a header just wide of the mark, following a cross from Benjamin Pavard.

Le Blues should have been ahead five minutes before the break when Mbappe slipped Pavard through on goal but Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois produced a stunning save to deny the full-back from close range.

That proved to be the final chance of the opening half as the sides went into the break scoreless.

Samuel Umtiti eventually broke the deadlock for Les Bleus five minutes into the second stanza with a glancing header at the near post following a corner, 1-0.

The match opened up towards the hour-mark as France were finding big spaces left behind by Belgium who were eager to find the equaliser.

Marouane Fellaini almost got the Red Devils back into the game in the 65th minute with header inside the box but his effort sailed just wide of the upright.

Martinez’s men were pressurising Les Bleus with a quarter of an hour remaining, whipping in crosses into the box looking for the aerial strength of Romelu Lukaku and Fellaini upfront.

France were playing with numbers behind the ball with five minutes remaining, denying the Red Devils space and time in the last third.

In the end, Les Bleus managed to keep the Belgians at bay to claim a massive victory that sees them advance to Final, where they will face either Croatia or England.

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