Didier Deschamps will be a satisfied coach as France reached the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 after beating Belgium 1-0 in the first semi-final at Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Samuel Umtiti’s 51st-minute goal separated the two sides until the final whistle as France entered their third World Cup final after 1998 and 2006.
The 24-year-old became the third defender after Rafael Varane and Benjamin Pavard to score a goal for France in this edition.
The win also saw Deschamps become the first French coach to reach the final of two major tournaments – Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018.
If France manage to lift their second World Cup trophy on July 15, then Deschamps, who was captain of the triumphant team in 1998, will join a super-exclusive club as he will become only the third man in history to win the World Cup as a player and as a coach.
Brazil legend Mario Zagallo was the first person to achieve the feat after lifting the World Cup twice in 1958 and 1962 while he won as a manager in 1970. He also won the 1994 edition as assistant manager.
Germany great Franz Beckenbauer followed next as he clinched the World Cup as captain in 1974 and as coach in 1990.
The French players danced on the field after the final whistle and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 and is now Belgium’s assistant coach.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to its first major final. Belgium reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but has yet to fulfil its lofty expectations.
The world now gets to see France’s luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.
Two years ago at home, the French surprisingly lost to Portugal 1-0 in the Euro 2016 title match. In 2006, they were beaten in a penalty shootout by Italy in a World Cup final that was overshadowed by Zidane headbutting opposing player Marco Materazzi in the chest in extra time. Zidane was sent off in what was his final match.
In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France’s took the lead from a corner. Antoine Griezmann curled in the ball from the right and Umtiti got in front of tall Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini to knock in his header at the near post.
Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.
The goal capped an impressive display by Umtiti, who helped to shut out the most productive attack in the World Cup with 14 goals, and meant three defenders have now scored on France’s route to the final. Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane scored in previous matches.
News credit : Indiatoday