FIFA World Cup

World Cup, semi-final, Belgium vs France – as it happened: Resolute Les Blues enter final

This heavyweight semi-final should be a cracker, given the strengths of both teams.

Expansive Belgium versus pragmatic France could decide the 2018 champions. Read the preview here.

Deschamps will only be the second captain-coach to lift the World Cup on Sunday, if France get there. It’s England vs Belgium tomorrow. See you then. What an enthralling semi-final we’ve had. After a gap of 20 years, a defender takes France into the final.

French fans celebrate
French fans celebrate

Martinez rues what happened in the set-plays and admits that the game was decided on fine details. “The game was tight and it was a question of finding the final touch in the box, which didn’t happen,” says Martinez. “We need to get over this disappointment and finish on a high,” he added, talking about the third-place match. “The players showed incredible focus.”

BELGIUM 0-1 FRANCE: Once again, France find a way to get past a formidable opponent. Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium – these were tricky opponents, all of them. They found a way to get past these tough opponents in some style. They were not easy wins, but they had the answers every step of the way. Belgium came up short on the night.

FULL-TIME: FRANCE ARE THROUGH TO THE FINALS

90+4’ There is no respite for Belgium, who are not able to get the ball in the French area. Tolisso now has a shot from close range and Courtois makes another finger-tip save.

90+3’ Hazard goes on another mazy run. He passes to De Bruyne, whose cross almost finds Lukaku but French clear once again. Vertonghen goes into the book for a ferocious tackle on

90+2’ Well, well. France nearly sealed the game there. Griezmann was found in space in the box by Pogba. The Atletico forward’s right foot shot was pounced by Courtois.

90+1’ France are taking their time in the Belgium half. Mbappe gets a YELLOW for wasting time.

90’ France have a free-kick on the left flank. Chadli makes a needless tackle from side on Pogba. It will be the Belgium winger’s last participation of the game. Batshuayi replaces him.

88’ OOHH! De Bruyne sends a fizzing ball into the box and Lukaku can’t get his head or boot on the ball by the lick of paint. Another near-miss. The Belgium attacks keep on coming.

87’ France survive again. N’Zonzi makes a crucial header from the goalmouth. Mbappe clears.

86’ KANTE GETS A YELLOW for a nasty pull on Chelsea teammate Hazard from the back. Belgium have a free-kick from the left, 35 yards out.

85’ It looks like Matuidi has suffered a concussion. The Juventus man goes down again. Belgium do not like this one bit. He is replaced with Tolisso.

84’ Giroud comes off and in comes N’Zonzi.

Carrasco replaces Fellaini

82’ Hazard and Matuidi are down after clashing into each other while vying for the ball. Both players need treatment and there is a stoppage in play.

80’ SHOT-save. Witsel from long range lets one fly with his right foot and Lloris, diving low to his left, punches the ball away. It was a fine effort.

78’ Boos ring around the stadium as the referee waves play on. Giroud, at the edge of the French area, had clattered into Hazard who stays on the ground. Replays shows that there was certain contact.

77’ Mbappe is pulled down just as he was set to dash down the right flank for another lung-bursting run. Fellaini was lucky to escape without a card there.

75’ De Bruyne sends one to the stands with a long-range attempt. He was filthy with himself post that. Time is ticking for the men in red.

73’ The Belgium fans are incensed. First, Umtiti needs some treatment. Then, Griezmann goes down, holding his knees. Belgium still haven’t mustered a clear-cut shot on goal.

70’ YELLOW CARD FOR ALDERWEIRELD. Matuidi was scurrying away on the counter and the Belgian centre-back makes a cynical tackle. Seconds before that happened, Mertens delivered yet another gorgeous cross in a dangerous area. The French defence hold firm.

68’ France are happy to have Belgium have a lot of the ball. Mind you, all the blue shirts are back defending for Deschamps’s side.

66’ Another blitzing run from Mbappe. The PSG forward zooms forward and plays a fine cross-field ball to Griezmann, who controls beautifully and lays it up for Giroud, whose first-time shot goes to the row z.

64’ CLOSE! Mertens is creating chaos in the French backline with his crosses. He tees up well with De Bruyne, and Fellaini’s header was just inches wide of the left-hand post.

62’ HAZARD GETS A YELLOW card for pulling down Matuidi, who was looking for a quick break after Chadli wastes a corner. The Belgium skipper can have no complaints there.

60’ Mertens makes an instant impact. De Bruyne tries to get on the end of a volley but fails to connect. The move involved Hazard’s pass, Lukaku’s energy and Mertens’s cross. France had a mini-scare but their defence had it covered.

A poor pass means that Mertens replaces Dembele for Belgium. The Tottenham man had a poor game.

57’ France are now knocking it around comfortably. Their fans are in full volume.

55’ What a move from France! Slick one-touch passing. Hernandez-Pogba-Mbappe, who plays a sumptuous backheels for Giroud. Alderweireld made a timely block. France are in complete control.

53’ Belgium are running a bit ragged. They give away a silly free-kick at the edge of the area. The red shirts, this time, do well to clear the ball out of danger. Chadli makes a fine recovering header.

51’ GOAL!! FRANCE 1-0 BELGIUM (UMTITI) What a header that was! The corner was swung to the near post and the Barcelona defender attacked the ball, outjumped Fellaini and bundled the ball into the net. France are up and away and have one foot in Moscow.

50’ Terrific block by Kompany! France once again were deadly on the counter. Giroud’s turned and shot but the Belgium defender put in a leg just in time.

48’ Good pressing from the Belgian frontmen at the start of the second half. De Bruyne put Umtiti under considerable amount of pressure. France clear.

47’ That was more like it! Witsel from the left delivers a cross to Lukaku, whose header goes well over the bar. Varane stuck close to his man, but for once, Belgium reminded themselves that they have a “big” target upfront.

46’ Mbappe nearly runs past the Belgian defence but Vertonghen makes a fine tackle in the box and France’s attack comes to nothing.

45’ De Bruyne almost pinches the ball off Hernandez after Matuidi slips and plays a careless back-pass to his left back. France recover.

The second half is under way. Belgium kick-off.

Hazard with what he does best:

Belgium started well and Hazard came close with a run and shot. That was it. France have looked the more threatening side since then. Giroud had a decent opportunity. The half belonged to the keepers. Both keepers were terrific. Courtois’s save off Pavard was a tad more difficult. Exciting second half coming up. Lloris was called into action from Alderwiereld’s effort from inside the area.

Half-time: BELGIUM 0-0 FRANCE

45’ Oh, Belgium could have ended this on a high! De Bruyne plays a lovely cross from the right, Umtiti makes a crucial touch in the box with Lukaku lurking behind him. The Manchester United striker still got a touch but the ball bounced off his hand and went out. Peeeep!

44’ Griezmann hits the wall. The ball bounces back straight to the France No 7. He tries to find Pogba with a cute wall pass but it goes out of play.

42’ Hazard looses the ball in a dangerous position and Dembele makes an ugly looking tackle on Pogba. Free-kick at the edge of the area for Les Blues.

40’ More threat from the blue shirts on the break. Belgium once again look a little ponderous in midfield. Kante’s presence in starting these counter-attacks have been crucial.

38’ WHAT A SAVE FROM COURTOIS! Pavard makes a terrific overlapping run. He collects the ball from Mbappe and unleashes a shot. The Belgian stopper, with his outstretched legs, saved the day. That was going to the bottom corner.

37’ Giroud needs some treatment. Looks like he has hurt his knee and the Chelsea man makes his way to the touchline.

36’ Once again, France look deadly on the break. Griezmann, this time, scurries forward at the heart of the Belgium defence. He takes a shot from 30 yards out but the ball rolls harmlessly wide.

35’ Griezmann scythes down Hazard with a nasty jab with his right foot. Belgium win a foul.

33’ That was close again! Giroud this time, was set up in a good position by Mbappe’s gorgeous first-touch pass after Griezmann picks up the latter with a cross-field ball. The former Arsenal man misses his footing and the ball went well wide. It could have been 1-0 to France there.

31’ What a run that was from Hazard! He went past Pogba and Pavard like they were training cones. He over-committed on the dribble and the ball goes out of play.

30’ Ahhh, almost! France have a decent crack but it was wide of target. Giroud gets to the end of Pavard’s cross from the right. The striker took a header from almost the edge of the area.

29’ Another foul by Belgium after the ball was dedlocked in the middle of the park for a good two minutes. France win a free-kick 40 yards from goal, straight from goal. It’s Belgium’s fourth foul.

Just two fouls committed in this game so far after 25 mins (both by Belgium)

27’ And....Kevin de Bruyne arrives in the game. He glides his way to the by-line on the left and drills the ball in. It looked like heading to Lukaku at the far post for a tap-in but Umtiti clears.

25’ Belgium patiently knock it around at the back. Alderwiereld tries a diagonal ball to Chadli, it was too long for him.

24’ Matuidi tries to get to the by-line and deliver a cut-back. Belgium and Chadli, who was well beaten by the French midfielder, survives. The ball had run out of the line.

23’ France attack again. This time, from the left. Hernandez wins a corner from a Belgium deflection.

22’ Oooh! Giroud almost got his foot on the end of a long ball. Belgium could have been in trouble had the striker controlled it. Goal kick for Belgium.

21’ WHAT A SAVE! Alderwiereld gets space from a corner, turns, and lets one fly with his left boot. Lloris dives and makes a wonderful stop. Once again, the French captain was immense.

20’ More Belgium threat. Fellaini is keeping Varane and Lloris busy with his presence. The Red Devils win a corner.

18’ CLOSE again! End-to-end action now. Hazard picks up a lose cross from a Chadli cross, cuts in and hammers one goalwards, Varane makes a crucial interception with his head.

17’ SHOT – saved. France tap it around the Belgian area and Matuidi thumps one on the volley. Courtois, unmoved, catches it nearly.

15’ CLOSE! Hazard’s shot goes just wide of the left post. He found a pocket of space in the box, turned a shot. Lukaku was in space and let’s his teammate know about it. Lloris made a full-stretch dive and the ball rolled just wide. This was after some nervous, ponderous play by Varane at the back.

14’ Lukaku might have had his first touch on the ball. He is flagged for offside and France win possession back.

12’ Mbappe almost gets through. Belgium were looking comfortable on the ball before Pogba won it in the middle and played a sweeping ball on the carpet. Mbappe raced past Vertonghen but Courtois saved the day for his side by coming out of his line and collecting it on the dive.

10’ The momentum swings France’s way as Kompany and Co are jittery at the back. A cross from Hernandez eludes Mbappe and Griezmann and falls in no man’s land. The Manchester City captain clears.

8’ Once again, France give away the ball cheaply. Pavard wins the ball and tries to switch play to the centre. Witsel intercepts.

7’ The blue shirts swarm around Hazard everytime he is on the ball. Here, Pogba dispossesses the ball. Belgium still have the ball. Almost all the French players are back defending.

6’ What a shame! Chadli’s corner from the right was long and went out of play on the other side.

5’ More Belgium threat. Hazard scurries to the edge of the by-line and delivers a cross, Varane clears nervously. It’s a Belgium corner.

4’ Now, Belgium are looking a lot more confident on the ball. Chadli is in the thick of things again. He delivers a neat cross this time, once again from the right but there was no red shirts at the end of it.

3’ First sign of Belgian threat after Vertonghen wins the ball on the left-flank and switches play. De Bruyne picks up Chadli on the right but the latter’s cross was poor.

2’ Mbappe is quick to get off the blocks. Vertonghen was flat-footed and the French teenager races away to the by-line and delivers a cross into the box. Griezmann can’t get to the end of it. France are dominating possession. Nothing meaningful so far.

Griezmann will kick-off the semi-final at St.Petersberg

How will France stop this man today?
How will France stop this man today?

National anthems time

11:24 pm: Just spare a thought for France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry – READ

11:22 pm: Belgium and France are all set to make their way onto the pitch. Some nervous faces in the tunnel.

11:19 pm: Roberto Martinez believes there is no secret to Belgium’s success.

“It’s been two years to try and understand these footballers, the human beings behind the footballers, and to try and get a group that shared the same ambition, not just to use the national team to improve their brand,” Martinez told a news conference.

“We’ve strived to be as good as we could be at international level and it’s taken us two years to get there. But there haven’t been one or two secrets to make it work, it’s been common sense.

“It’s a group of people who share a vision of making Belgian football proud and achieving something important and these players have done that.”

11:16 pm: Till around 18 months back, Kevin De Bruyne had not heard about Kylian Mbappe!

“He had only played about 10 matches and at that time I didn’t know him,” said De Bruyne on Monday. “Now he has played a lot for France, a lot in the Champions League. He is a different player, a star for the next 15 years and I think he can even improve.”

11:13 pm: If Griezmann applies the finishing touch for France, then Hazard is the man who does it for Belgium.

Hazard has been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 14 games for Belgium - 8 goals, 6 assists.

11:09 pm: A big part of the match will be how the battle between Eden Hazard and Ngolo Kante pans out. If Hazard is allowed to roam free, he will create lots of opportunities for Belgium. But Kante, who also plays at Chelsea, will be that little bit wiser to his tricks.

11:05 pm: Here’s another look at how the two teams are setting up. France will look to keep this as compact as possible while Belgium will look to come in through the wings too.

11:01 pm: Both teams are at the ground now.

10:57 pm: Didier Deschamps stays loyal to his 4-2-3-1 formation but Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils are going to play in a 3-5-2, super-offensive line-up. Both teams like to score goals and we did see how dangerous Belgium can be when they go forward with good intent. France, on the other hand, have never truly hit their straps so far. We did see a glimpse of their potential against Argentina. It will probably come down to the finishing of the two sides.

10:50 pm: A lot of people have been waiting for this game to begin. They have been waiting for a long time. Just look at the crowd:

10:44 pm: Antoine Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last six knockout stage games in major tournaments for France.

10:20 pm: The French line-up is out. Blaise Matuidi, as expected, returns from suspension and replaces Corentin Tolisso.

France are expected to line-up thus:

Hugo Lloris

Benjamin Pavard - Raphael Varane - Samuel Umtiti - Lucas Hernandez

Paul Pogba - N’golo Kante

Kylian Mbappe - Antoine Griezmann - Blaise Matuidi

Olivier Giroud

10:05 pm: The Belgian line-up is out and it looks like another 3-4-3 from Roberto Martinez.

We expect this is how that they’ll line-up like this:

Thibaut Courtois

Toby Alderweireld - Vincent Kompany - Jan Vertonghen

Mousa Dembele - Marouane Fellaini - Axel Witsel

Nacer Chadli - Eden Hazard - Kevin de Bruyne

Romelu Lukaku

9:50 pm: France have lost just 2 games since the Euro 2016 final. A 2-3 reverse at the hands of Colombia in October 2017 and a 2-1 loss against Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers are the only blemishes on Les Bleus’ record as they go into a 6th semi-final. Their last semi-final appearance was in 2006, when they beat Portugal 1-0 courtesy a Zinedine Zidane penalty.

For more on France’s record since the Euros, read here.

9:30 pm: This latest showdown between Belgium and France will be the 74th in a 114-year-old sporting rivalry. The two teams first faced each other in May 1904 in Brussels, drawing 3-3.

The pair have crossed paths three times in the finals of international competitions and France came out on top each time. In their two previous Fifa World Cup meetings, France ran out 3-1 winners in the first round in 1938, whereas in the Play-Off for Third Place in 1986 it took extra time to determine the final result of 4-2.

For more statistical juice, go here.

Welcome to the live blog of Belgium versus France.

This promises to be one cracker of a semi-final between two heavyweights. On one hand, Didier Deschamps and this French side waltzed into the semis after a 2-0 win over Uruguay. Les Bleus really haven’t been stretched in this tournament, even in a 4-3 win over Argentina but that looks all set to change today.

Belgium look to go where no Belgian side has gone before, hoping to reach the finals for the first time in their history. Their only previous semi-final appearance came in 1986, but this is undoubtedly their Golden Generation, winning all 5 of their matches at the World Cup so far. A 2-1 scalp of Brazil can only help boost confidence.

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