So much for all the goals everyone expected from Tuesday’s France-Belgium semifinal. Instead, the matchup between two of the World Cup’s most exciting sides…
So much for all the goals everyone expected from Tuesday’s France-Belgium semifinal.
Instead, the matchup between two of the World Cup’s most exciting sides was a hard-fought, defensive affair that saw the French emerge as 1-0 victors .
Belgium looked the more dangerous side for much of the first half. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both came out firing, creating a handful of opportunities that their teammates just couldn’t convert. France never looked particularly uncomfortable, though, and after 40 minutes of absorbing pressure, began to turn it on, testing the Belgian defense in the final minutes of the half. But just like their opponents, they couldn’t find the back of the net, and the two sides entered the half scoreless.
The deadlock didn’t last long. In the 51st minute, French defender Samuel Umtiti, who had looked like a liability at times during the first half, angled in a gorgeous header to put his team up. At that point, the French dropped back to defend, and a Belgium side that had looked so full of ideas for the first 40 minutes of the game suddenly had no idea what to do. Though they attempted to put pressure on the French goal, the openings they’d been able to find in the first half were gone, forcing them to resort to pumping crosses into the box hoping for a chance at a free header. It never materialized, and after a final few minutes of French keep-away, the game was over and Les Bleus were through to the final having shut down the tournament’s best offense.
Deschamps has been rightly criticized for the inconsistent form France has displayed during his six-year tenure. Despite an unimaginably deep pool of talent to call upon, he’s never figured out how to get the best from his team on a regular basis.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. France’s win may not have been its most glamorous, but it was a win to be proud of and one that makes clear that his side might be days away from claiming the country’s second World Cup. That first Cup-winning team from 20 years ago? It was captained by Deschamps.
It’s unlikely to be remembered by anyone outside of France, but Samuel Umtiti won’t care one bit. From a corner, the defender beat Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini to the ball and expertly angled it into the back of the net with the side of his head for what would be the game’s only goal.