Sunday, 15 July 2018

France reach World Cup final as Paris erupts

Fans in Paris celebrate France’s victory against Belgium in the World Cup semi-finals © AFP / ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI

PARIS: France reached their third World Cup final after overcoming Belgium on Tuesday, sparking scenes of unconfined joy in Paris as tens of thousands of people poured into the streets.

In scenes reminiscent of France’s 1998 World Cup win, delirious crowds surged up the Champs-Elysees avenue and surrounded the Arc de Triomphe, waving flags and letting off flares.

A header from Samuel Umtiti in Saint Petersburg was enough to give Didier Deschamps’ team a 1-0 win against Belgium.

The 49-year-old coach is now just one win away from winning the World Cup – 20 years after he captained the team to victory on home soil.

The tournament favourites must wait 24 hours to discover whether they will play England or Croatia in Sunday’s final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium but they will approach the game brim full of confidence.

Belgium started the stronger of the two teams but Umtiti’s header from a corner in the 51st minute was the pivotal moment as the defender stole the limelight from jet-heeled Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

France’s other hero was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who made a spectacular fingertip save in the first half to deny Toby Alderweireld and then kept out Alex Witsel’s drive as Belgium cranked up the pressure towards the end of the match.

Deschamps said he was delighted to have the chance to bury the pain of the Euro 2016 final, which Portugal won in Paris.

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