We are in the penultimate round of the World Cup and the competition doesn’t fail to surprise. France are through to the final for the second time in 12 years and third time in the last six editions. What was expected to be a goal fest against Belgium turned out to be a tame 1-0 win for France.
France will now face either England or Croatia, who are slated to play the second semi-final on Wednesday, 11 July.
Here are five takeaways from the first semi-final between France and Belgium:
1. French Defense
It was France's backline and not its attackers who carried the team to the World Cup final.
The superbly drilled defense, led by Raphael Varane, neutralised Belgium's much-hyped attack to record their fifth win in six games so far. And for the second time it was again a defender who scored the goal for France despite such an impressive attack in place.
If it was Varane’s header that brought them into the semis, against Belgium it was Samuel Umtiti’s header which put them in the final.
2. Failure of The Belgian Attack
The famous Belgian forward line looked out of place in Tuesday’s semi-final. Lukaku missed sitters in the box and De Bruyne who scored a stunner against Brazil only managed to hit over the goal post in the match. Captain Hazard was the only saving grace for the Belgians.
The team that scored 14 goals coming into the match wasn’t at ease except in the first 20 minutes. Out of the nine shots they took, only three managed to be on target.
3. Hugo Lloris: The Flying Frenchman
Talking about the French defense, goalkeeper Lloris is having the tournament of his life.
After a great quarterfinal match against Uruguay, the French goalie carried on his form to the semis. If by chance the French defense was breached, Lloris was there to make decisive saves. Lloris was jumping, rather flying, to make those superb saves.
The last time France won the World Cup it was their goal keeper Fabien Barthez who played a key role; it won’t be surprising if another goalkeeper helps the side to lift the trophy this time too.
4. Mbappe’s Continuing Antics
For the second match in a row, the 19-year-old was in the news for the wrong reasons despite those pacey runs through the Belgian defense.
In the previous match against Uruguay, Mbappe was shown a yellow card for play acting and again on Tuesday he was given a yellow card for time-wasting.
The PSG forward was guilty of time-wasting in the dying minutes of the second half when Belgium was desperately trying to score an equaliser.
Mbappe was seen kicking the ball and wasting some precious seconds instead of handing the ball for a throw in.
5. Piece of Record
With France now moving into the final, Didier Deschamps could well go on to become the third man in the history of World Cup to win the title both as a player and a coach. Deschamps was the captain of the French side when they won the competition in 1998. Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo are the other two to have won both as a coach and a player.
Till date, no foreign coach has won the World Cup and it looks like that record will be intact. After Belgium’s exit, the three teams left in the competition are all coached by their countrymen. Deschamps for France, Southgate for England and Dalic for Croatia. Roberto Martinez was the only foreign coach left in the competition till Tuesday.