Semi Final Played at St Petersburg, Russia
France (Samuel Umtiti 1): Belgium 0
In a match of intense contest, nail biting thrills and hair raising excitements two of the better organized talented teams of World Cup 2018 played on the most enjoyable football ever seen in world cup.
France beat Belgium to advance to the final against the winner of another all European semi final between Croatia and England. The semi final losers would world out third and the fourth position of the tournament. Belgium once again dropped out from semi final .In 1986 it was ultimate winner Diego Maradona’s Maradona .This time they went down to France who knows may be the ultimate winner.
After an evenly contested goal less first half when both sides should have scored at least once France secured the winner early in the second half from a corner taken by Griezman and Umtiti heading home. Teams again created many opportunities in the second half. But French defended their lead and were worthy finalist. The semi final did not witness another favourite fall. France did to Belgium what Belgium did to Brazil. Letting the opposition possess the ball. But when opportunity comes their way pounce on and get ahead. With France in the final at least one of the 8 world cup winners will be there. Now it is to be seen whther England gets better of Croatia tomorrow.
World Cup 2018 lost winner of World Cup 2014 Germany and losing finalist Argentina on the way. Eternal favourite Brazil was also knocked out. Spain, Uruguay and Portugal all bowed out. No Messi, No Ronaldo, no Neymar. Did World Cup loose any glamour and grace? Not at all. The first semi final of WC 2018 produced high quality football that even Edson Arantes do Nascimento Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Eusebio, Di Francesco , Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer ,Johan Cruyff ,Zinedine Zidane would love to play at their prime . It was sheer delight, pure entertainment. In this changing world order we have accept changes .We have to herald new heroes.
It was the 74th meeting of the two teams in all tournaments and friendly internationals. Belgium won 30 and France 24, 19 matches were drawn. They met twice in the past in the world Cup finals. France won both 3-1 in the first round in 1938 and 4-2 in the play off for the third fourth place in 1988. This is only the second semi final appearance of Belgium. They lost to Argentina in 1986 when Argentina went on to win the cup.
In the match high tension Belgium appeared to take the initiative first dominating the possession for the first 20 -25 minutes. Creative Hazard engineered few threatening moves. Belgian efforts found a great barrier in Lloris making couple of smart saves. De Bruyner played his part .But Lukaku in the first half remained mostly bottled in tight French defense. France started counter attacking after about 30 minutes. Mbappe made few racing down the middle..Griezman struck few long distance drives. But till the lemon break ice did not break. Both sides came close to scoring at least once but none could score 0-0.
Belgium was the short-passing team in game so far, controlling possession at 58-42 percent and out passing France, 318-201. But France’s direct style led to more shots: an 11-3 advantage. Unfortunately for France, only two of those shots were on net. Six were off target, and three were blocked.
Griezmann led the way with four shots for France, although none of those was on target. Belgium has most of its passing coming from the defense, with Alderweireld and Kompany having 50 and 46 passes. Of course, those uncontested sideways passes in Belgium’s end are taking place a long way from where the goals are scored.
Second 45 Minutes:
France shot into the lead early in to the second half of a set piece. .Griezman curled the corner towards near post where Umtiti out jumped Fellani heading home and breaking the dead lock at 51 minute. France went 1-0. This goal sparked France and they carried out series of threatening attacks. This is the first time since 1994 Belgium conceded a goal from a corner.
The tempo picked up and attacks and counter attacks kept all enchanted. Somehow or other France could break the deadly communication of De Bruyen, Hazard and Lukaku. In counter attacks France started looking more and more positive as the match went on. Belgium created good chances but could not score. France successfully defended 1-0 lead and booked a berth for the final.
Belgium in 2018 will be remembered for knocking out tournament favourite Brazil, excellent come back against Japan. But perhaps I should mention perhaps lost a trick to England in the last group match choosing a difficult high way.
Fel soory for this golden generation of Belgium .By 2022 in Qatar most of them will be past their prime. In the heat of Qatar it will be tougher for European team to adjust any way.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts Europe's third-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sitesand leads the world in tourism, receiving around 83 million foreign visitors annually. France is the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world (WTO), and La Francophonie. Metropolitan France covers 551,500 square kilometers (212,935 sq mi), the largest among European Union members. France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth.
Belgium is a country in Western Europe bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. A small and densely populated country , it covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11 million. Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. The country achieves very high standards of living, life quality, healthcare, education, and is categorized as "very high" in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.
Meeting of the two West European neighbours in other words can be termed David against Golliath in terms of size but not in terms of quality. In football Belgium did not win World cup yet, not even went as far as final against the finals. France won once and is one of the tournament favourites. Some analysts talked about Belgium. But very few thought they will reach that far especially hurdling across hot favourites Brazil.
They also beat England in the group. France sent home Argentina and Uruguay and Belgium shocked Brazil to reach head to head. France is one of the tournament favourites having 2-1 world cup odds after starting at 10-1.Belgium is right behind 11-4 starting at 15-1. FIFA before this world cup ranked Belgium 3rd just behind Germany and Brazil. France was ranked 7th.
FRANCE unleashed the attacking talents of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against Eden Hazard’s in-form Belgium .The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promised to be full of intrigue as France aimed to return to the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006.
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings and Romelu Lukaku provided the firepower upfront, but their secret weapon for the mission Russia was on the sidelines in the shape of one of France’s greatest players of all time, Thierry Henry, who is now head coach Roberto Martinez’s assistant.
In players such as Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba, these sides boasted some of the world's most devastating attacking player
Road to the Semi Final
The road to semi final for France and Belgium were not at all beds of roses. They had to produce wonderful all round football to overcome serious challenges all the way. France topped Group C and Belgium was leader of Group H
France in Group C
France 2 Australia 1
France 1 Peru 0
France 0 Denmark 0
Group Of 16
France 3: Argentina 2
France 2: Uruguay 0
Belgium in Group G
Belgium 3-Panama 0
Belgium 5-Tunisia 2
Belgium 1: England 0
Group of 6
Belgium 3 Japan 2
Belgium 2- Brazil 1
Finally experience counts. Belgium was allowed to play and when they could not avail their chances France implemented their strategy and triumphed. It will not easy for either Croatia or England to win against France.
BDST: 0859 HRS, JUL 11, 2018