France managed to secure a 1-0 defeat over friendly rivals Belgium to progress to the World Cup Final.
Following the suspension of Thomas Meunier, Roberto Martinez was left in a difficult situation in replacing the only right back in the squad. Martinez decided to play a 3-5-2 with Nacer Chadli at RWB and a rotation of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne at LWB. Hazard completed 10 dribbles in the match, but only three were in important areas.
France started the first five minutes of the game very brightly passing the ball around and not allowing the Belgians to get a touch of it. However, after that initial spell from the French was over Belgium completely controlled the game. They pinned France into their half and dominated possession but found it difficult to break the tough French midfield.
France always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and were effective when they got the ball. In the first half, Mbappé was nearly through on goal after some excellent play from Pogba who released the rapid PSG winger, but he was stopped by an out rushing Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium looked more likely to score though. Eden Hazard’s curling shot was headed behind by Varane and minutes later Toby Alderweireld came close to giving Belgium the lead after his shot was excellently saved by his Spurs counterpart Hugo Lloris.
Towards the end of the first half, Didier Deschamps’ side started to pile on the pressure. France countered again effectively with Mbappé let loose to chase a ball down the right wing and feeding a delightful cross to Olivier Giroud. However, he was unable to get a good enough contact and dispatch the ball into the back of the net.
Just before the end of the first half Benjamin Pavard nearly gave France the lead after his low shot from inside the box was just kicked away by Courtois. Les Bleus eventually took the lead shortly after the half time restart when Samuel Umtiti headed home in the 51st minute. Umtiti managed to time his run perfectly, getting in front of the towering Fellaini and beating Courtois at his near post.
Giroud nearly increased the lead when he was fed a delightful back-heeled ball by Kylian Mbappe but was denied by Moussa Dembele, whose mistake led to the chance. The Spurs midfielder, who was only drafted in after the suspension of Meunier, looked extremely poor and not match fit. He was substituted off for Dries Mertens in the 60th minute.
For the majority of the second half, Belgium looked out of the game and could not create much. Axel Witsel came close after his thunderous shot was punched away by Lloris late into the game.
The game ended 1-0 with no real complaints after a very poor second half performance. Romelu Lukaku was man marked out of the game so was unable to make any real impact on the team.The two goalkeepers and Marouane Fellaini were the only starters who amassed fewer points than the Belgian #9.
Belgium are now out of the World Cup but will face either England or Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday afternoon.