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They certainly hope to keep the party going on Sunday in the final in Moscow.

France will be tough opponents for either Croatia or England in the final.

"Vive la France! Vive la Republique!" Vertonghen lost the ball thrice in his own half during the first period, while also being given the occasional run around by French teen sensation Kylian Mbappe.

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.

Belgium was left Tuesday still clinging to the elusive ambition of reaching a first World Cup final.

Belgium's Spanish coach Roberto Martinez, who aspired to be the first foreigner to guide a team to World Cup glory, faced his first competitive defeat in almost two years - at the altar of the game.

After all the drama of Kazan, France produced a composed display to become the first side to book their place in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. It was set piece goal number 69, which is 44% of the total 158 scored so far. 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.

The prosaic truth may be twofold: that Belgium lost to a France side which, in Mbappe, has a man auditioning for the title of the world's best player and which has greater strength in depth.

England unchanged, Croatia's Vrsaljko passed fit
Harry Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Shearer and Platt, Gazza and Wazza, Beckham and Gerrard. Perisic leaped to meet Sime Vrsaljko's curling cross with his left foot and hit it past Jordan Pickford in the 68th minute.

Samuel Umtiti's second-half header was the difference in a tightly-fought contest, but one in which Belgium had the bulk of possession (64 per cent) while France mainly looked to counter-attack. Raphael Varane put on an incredible performance on the night and was impeccable in defence as he would not give Lukaku a sniff of the ball. The strategy for Belgium was, to go wide and send lots of crosses especially from Mertens.

After his team fell behind, Martinez took off Dembele and pulled De Bruyne back into central midfield, and though Belgium did not get a goal, it controlled the play better and created more chances.

Now in the final of the World Cup, the Frenchmen have only 90 minutes between them and immortality by winning the trophy.

Imagine how much better, how much more polished France's young diamond will be at age 21, at the 2020 European Championship, or at age 23, at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and on and on. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesn't happen often.

True, the France team that won the World Cup in 1998 with Deschamps as its captain was considerably older. Meunier has had a significant role to play; we have seen him perform assists, goals and generally participate well in matches. Ever a man to bring division, Jose Mourinho accused some of Belgium's players of "hiding". But it is hard to face such a team, as the first goal means so much in a game like this.

Mick Jagger was one of the many famous faces in the stands at St. Petersburg Stadium.

Some echoed the love-hate relationship and inferiority complex many French-speaking Walons have with their bigger neighbour France.


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