Photo: Tim Groothuis - Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

France punches ticket to World Cup Final

The French will face the winner of England and Croatia on Sunday in Moscow

July 11, 2018 - 7:39 am

France needed just one goal, a Samuel Umtiti header off an Antoine Griezmann corner, in order to defeat Belgium, 1-0 in St. Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday. With the win, France advances to the World Cup Final to face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal match between Croatia and England.

The French team becomes the only team in the past 20 years to play in three World Cup Finals.

In the 50th minute of the game, French midfielder Blaise Matuidi set up striker Olivier Giroud for a clean shot on net that was deflected by Belgium. That play set up Griezmann’s corner kick. Griezmann curled the ball toward the near post and Umtiti redirected the ball past Belgian goalie, Thibaut Courtois. Umtiti, listed at 5’ 10”, rose up past 6’ 3” Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini to get his head on the ball. Neither Fellaini’s height nor his bushy hair were enough to deny the 24-year-old Umtiti.

“When one is not particularly tall, what is important is the determination,” Umtiti said. “He is a very highly performing player, Marouane Fellaini, but I managed to get a header ahead of him.”

France was on the attack for much of the first half and would finish the game with a 19-9 shot advantage. But after Umtiti’s goal in the 50th minute, play slowed down considerably as France parked the bus. Belgium had the ball for the majority of the second half, finishing with 60-percent possession, but were unable to solve the French defense or veteran goalkeeper and French captain, Hugo Lloris.

Croatia will face England at 2 p.m. on Wednesday with the winner advancing to Sunday’s tournament final in in Moscow. After calmly beating Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, and Belgium on the way to the final, France will be the favorite against either opponent.

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