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Samuel Umtiti broke through in the 51st minute and France held on to defeat Belgium 1-0 sending Les Bleus to the World Cup final.

Samuel Umtiti, in blue, scores the only goal of the game bast Belgium's Thibault Courtois.

Instead of playing Sunday in Moscow for its first World Cup, Belgium will be back in St. Petersburg on Saturday, playing in the third-place match and wondering if its championship window has closed.

Before the match, Henry was being equally social, chatting with French players and embracing the opposition manager, Didier Deschamps. Belgium was missing influential full back Thomas Meunier due to his suspension and had replaced him with Moussa Dembele. "It just came down to very small margins - the first goal was going to be vital". But they picked up pace and started asking serious questions of their own in the latter half of the first 45 minutes and it was 0-0 at half-time.

There was still time for Umtiti to miskick and nearly let in Romelu Lukaku, but somehow the teams went into the break tied at 0-0. Belgium brought on the likes of Dries Mertens and loaded the box. Two years after losing the Euro 2016 at home, France is now one win away from its second World Cup title as it seeks redemption at the highest of stages.

Apart from being the match victor, Umtiti's partnership with Raphael Varane in central defence continues to flourish, and when called upon, captain Hugo Lloris made important saves at key moments. Matuidi had to be subbed off after a sickening collision with Hazard.

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The former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland star is in St Petersburg for RTÉ Sport for the first of the last four-games tonight between France and Belgium. Not only they are set to take on one of the top European sides at the moment, but this will also be their tougher opponent in quite a while.

Martinez said: "It was a dead ball situation which was the difference".

Kylian Mbappe was lethal in France's 4-3 second-round win over Argentina, using his pace to devastating effect, but Martinez said his side would not make the mistake of focusing exclusively on one player.

That was as close as Belgium came to taking the game to extra-time, though, as Lloris parried a long-range piledriver from Axel Witsel. In the 19th minute, Eden Hazard's whipping shot from the left side was flicked just over the bar by French defender Raphael Varane.

Given how the voting usually goes, he nearly surely won't win the player of the tournament award, but he deserves more consideration, especially if France lifts the trophy on Sunday.


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