Defender’s header sends France to final as Red Devils run out of ideas

France’s strong defence and Samuel Umtiti’s (pictured) header from a corner denied Belgium their first chance to enter World Cup final.

They face England or Croatia for the third position on Saturday (July 14).

Red Devils may blame the loss in semi-finals at St Petersburg on winger Thomas Meunier’s suspension or the “negative” (too defensive) play by Les Blues but no one can deny Belgium failed to play their natural game. After scoring 14 goals in 5 games, they could not find the equaliser in their most important match in 45 minutes. This shows the French defence was too strong and Red Devils were desperate and running out of ideas.

But Belgium made a good start by keeping the ball under their control in the midfield while France went on the defensive to prevent early goals from Eden Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne.

De Bruyne created an opening in the 16th minute for Hazard who shot wide. Three minutes later, Hazard could have scored but his shot was deflected over the bar by defender Raphael Varane.

Signs of failure were visible after the first 30 minutes of play when Belgium forwards started fumbling by giving too many wrong passes. French players capitalised on those lapses by launching wave after wave of attacks on Belgium’s goalmouth. France dominated the last 15 minutes of first half with their sublime passes and quick footwork. Kylian Mbappe was moving fast and looking dangerous.

Belgium was lucky in the 40th minute when Mbappe set up Pavard who had only keeper Courtois before him as he took an angular run with the ball from near the touchline on the right. But his shot hit the outstretched foot of the keeper and rolled across for a goal kick.

Soon after the break, Umtiti headed home in the 51st minute from an Antoine Griezmann corner beating Marouane Fellaini who rose to clear it. Fellaini tried to equalise in the 65th minute with a powerful header which went wide.

After taking the lead, France stood strong and hardly gave Red Devils space to play. De Bruyne still created some openings but Hazard and Romelu Lukaku missed chances.

Belgium were denied a free kick outside the box when Hazard was fouled by Olivier Giroud, but the referee ignored it.

With French defenders Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante hardly giving him any room to score, a desperate De Bruyne shot wildly from long range.

In the dying seconds, Courtois prevented a goal from Corentin Tolisso.