France booked their place in the World Cup final on Sunday after seeing off Belgium in their semi-final clash with a 1-0 victory.
Neither side could find a breakthrough in the first half, but it was Samuel Umtiti who stepped up and headed home the winning goal early in the second period to send the French through.
In contrast, despite providing some memorable moments in this tournament, Belgium will be bitterly disappointed to have fallen short as they’ll now face one last game in Russia to determine the third and fourth best sides.
As for France, while they didn’t hit top gear in this encounter, key performances from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe stood out in particular.
The Man Utd midfield ace was dominant in winning the battle in the middle while his creativity and passing was crucial in gaining a foothold in the game. Meanwhile, Mbappe looked a constant threat with his pace, movement and direct running at the Belgian backline and he will look to now play a decisive role in the final.
In contrast, Roberto Martinez will look back on this game with disappointment as Belgium simply didn’t get going with key individuals such as Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku not producing anywhere near their best when it was really needed.
Eden Hazard was a real threat with his quality to take on his man, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough for Belgium as they fall short while France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris deserves a mention after producing a key save in the first half to deny Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld.
France will now await the winner of Croatia’s clash with England in the other semi-final on Wednesday night. While Didier Deschamps arguably hasn’t quite seen his side play to their best aside from that thrilling encounter with Argentina in the last-16, they will be pleased with how resolutely they’ve defended.
The French have a solid base on which to build with Umtiti and Raphael Varane keeping things tight at the back, and in turn, that allows the likes of Pogba and Mbappe to go out and put in match-winning performances.
Time will tell if they have one more victory in them.
France player ratings: Lloris 7; Pavard 7, Varane 7, Umtiti 8, Hernandez 6; Kante 7, Pogba 8, Matuidi 7; Mbappe 8, Griezmann 7, Giroud 6.
Belgium player ratings: Courtois 6; Alderweireld 7, Kompany 6, Vertonghen 6; Witsel 7, Chadli 6, Dembele 6, Fellaini 6, De Bruyne 6, Hazard 7, Lukaku 6.