The Umtiti header goal, in the 51st minute, sent France to its first World Cup final since 2006, and gave it a chance to win the title for the first time since its one and only world championship, claimed on home soil in 1998.
An unbelievably disciplined defensive showing from the French team left a talented, attacking Belgium team with few options. Two years after losing the Euro 2016 at home, France is now one win away from its second World Cup title as it seeks redemption at the highest of stages.
Belgium, of course, didn’t like any of it, but it didn’t do enough to press the game when it could. With France laying back in the final 20 minutes, Belgium sent on attackers as substitutes and worked the ball around the outside, looking for a crack in the French defense.
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. Roberto Martinez’s team was held to just three shots on frame. Belgium had 64 percent possession but struggled with the speed of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, while its midfield was outclassed by Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
France now flies into Sunday’s final on a hot streak, having defeated Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium in the knockout stage. The team will take the winner of England or Croatia in the final, with those two playing on Wednesday. The loser faces Belgium in Saturday’s third-place match.
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