Sat | Jul 21, 2018

One goal enough for Les Bleus

Published:Wednesday | July 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
France’s Samuel Umtiti, (5) heads the ball to score the only goal of the game during the semifinal match against Belgium at the 2018 World Cup in Russia yesterday.

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (AP):

They're young, they're brash and they're collectively worth a billion dollars. The one thing missing for this French squad is an international title.

Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and France are about to get that chance.

Les Bleus are headed to the World Cup final.

Samuel Umtiti clinched a 1-0 win over Belgium - and earned the approval of watching French President Emmanuel Macron in the VIP seats at St. Petersburg Stadium - by scoring on a header off a corner kick in the 51st minute yesterday.

"Vive la France! Vive la Republique!" France forward Antoine Griezmann shouted during postgame celebrations.

 

STRONG EFFORT

 

Umtiti played his part in a strong defensive effort by the French, too, helping to shut out the highest-scoring team at the tournament and leaving Belgium's golden generation of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to regret another missed opportunity at a major tournament.

"It's me that scored," Umtiti said, "but we all delivered a big game."

France's players danced on the field after the final whistle and their fans sang in the stands long past the end of the match, surrounded by yellow-clad security.

They certainly hope to keep the party going on Sunday in the final in Moscow. France - with an average age of 26 - will face either Croatia or England, who play today at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital.

"We're immensely privileged to be in the World Cup final," France coach Didier Deschamps said.

Deschamps now has the chance to become the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, after German great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo. As France captain, Deschamps raised football's most prized trophy in 1998.

Deschamps has faced some criticism for being too pragmatic and functional despite having a squad of superstars, but his team was set up superbly against an opponent that was largely restricted to only minor chances and denied on two occasions in particular by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.