Kylian Mbappe went full Federation Internationale de Football Association in semi-final victory over Belgium

Carla Harmon
July 11, 2018

This tournament marks the culmination of a "golden generation" for the Belgians, featuring a roster replete with stars like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

With Belgium camped in the France half, Moussa Dembele, who came in for the suspended Thomas Meunier, lost the ball and Paul Pogba nearly threaded in Mbappe but Thibaut Courtois was quickly off his line.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Henry was part of the French squad that won the World Cup on home soil 20 years ago and played 123 times for his country, scoring 51 times.

Belgium will be without Thomas Meunier for the first time in the tournament, as the PSG midfield has also picked up a suspension.

For all its possession, Belgium - the top scorers in this competition - were unable to break a robust French defense and will rue not capitalizing on its dominant first-half display.

Mbappe has arguably been the best young player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. "The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal", he said.

Now he is an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and the two of them will be plotting how to get the better of France tactically. France have been the stand-out side of the tournament so far and will be hot favourites to win the trophy, regardless of their opponent.

Six minutes of injury time provided Belgium with hope but France ran the clock down and nearly made it 2-0 as Griezmann and then Corentin Tolisso's shots were well saved by Courtois.

France coach Didier Deschamps agrees Henry will be in a tough spot at the St Petersburg Stadium. The Guardian's Martin Laurence seemingly went against the grain, however, and predicted a 2-1 win for Belgium.

"I feel that the most important aspect we worked on was the notion of being a team".

The most recent encounter was a 4-3 thriller in favour of Belgium three years ago in an worldwide friendly, and we're backing another entertaining encounter with a 2-2 draw at 90 minutes catching the eye at 12/1 with Paddy Power.

Against Brazil in the quarters, Martinez showed tactical adventure, as he pushed target man Lukaku to the wing to allow De Bruyne to operate as a "false nine". Two goals were enough for both semifinalist to get them here.

Umtiti beat Marouane Fellaini to an Antoine Griezmann cross he headed what would prove to be the decider.

"It's me that scored", Umtiti said, "but we all delivered a big game". His pace caused the Belgian back line worries all night and one moment of absolute genius when his quick feet and back heel sent Giroud through on goal, nearly lead to one of the goals of the tournament so far.

France is back in the World Cup final for the first time since Zinedine Zidane's headbutt in 2006.

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