World Cup Semi-Final Results 2018: Highlights, Twitter Reaction from Tuesday

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2018

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 10:  Kylian Mbappe of France challenge for the ball with Moussa Dembele of Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between Belgium and France at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

France reached the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating Belgium on Tuesday, thanks to a goal from Samuel Umtiti. Two sides built to attack produced a free-flowing semi-final in St. Petersburg, and Umtiti's header in the 51st minute was all that was needed to separate both.

There were chances galore during the opening 45 minutes, with both teams relying on pace and movement from wide areas. For Belgium, it meant an enthralling display from Eden Hazard, with the tricky No. 10 embracing a free role:

Kristof Terreur 📰 @HLNinEngeland

When Eden Hazard’s not playing in a tactical straight jacket. #bel #fra #cfc #worldcup https://t.co/GJXMZ3BrxE

Hazard's link-up with playmaker Kevin De Bruyne proved Belgium's best route to goal. The two Premier League stars dovetailed brilliantly with a series of deft flicks and neat one- and two-touch passes.

France struggled to keep Hazard in check as the opening half wore on, with Fox Soccer showing one good chance for U.S. audiences:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Hazard AGAIN with a big chance! https://t.co/ODeKm1VYTY

The Red Devils kept the pressure on, but they found France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a stubborn presence. UK viewers can see one of the Tottenham Hotspur stopper's best saves:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Spurs v Spurs #FRABEL #THFC #worldcup https://t.co/MDoNxHQjvx

France's attempts to counter rested largely on the pace and ingenuity of Kylian Mbappe. The 19-year-old forward ran Belgium ragged, stretching the right flank and keeping the supply lines open to Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.

Many of Les Bleus' best chances fell to the latter, but his radar in front of goal continued to let him down:

Dale Johnson @DaleJohnsonESPN

A reminder that Olivier Giround has not yet had a shot on target in the whole World Cup. #FRABEL

Rather than relying on their gifted forwards, the French eventually got their goal courtesy of a defender. It came six minutes after the break when Umtiti powered a header in from a Griezmann corner:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

SAMUEL UMTITI! The center back heads home the corner to give France the 1-0 lead. 🇫🇷 https://t.co/Y5MtXUpvDg

He hadn't scored the goal, but Griezmann at least maintained his useful run as a supplier:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Antoine Griezmann (3 goals, 2 assists) has been involved in the second-most goals at this #WorldCup. Only Harry Kane (6 goals) has been involved in more. 🖥 @BBCOne 💻 https://t.co/yGjQxNQRhB #worldcup #bbcworldcup #FRABEL #FRA #BEL https://t.co/G93CByP3QQ

France were now in the ascendancy, and Griezmann, Giroud and Mbappe all soon went close. The latter continued to wow the crowd with his impish skills:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

OMG Mbappé 🔥 https://t.co/GjCvhdxyH9

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Kylian Mbappe... stop that! #FRABEL #worldcup https://t.co/4LQlKXgvDm

It was all about the defence in the latter stages, as France remained defiant in the face of increasing pressure from the Red Devils. Fortunately, a physical midfield protected a back four that was able to keep pace with Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens.

Varane earned particular praise from Goal's Robin Bairner:

Robin Bairner @RBairner

Enormous performance from several players, but #Varane surely man of the match. Won countless headers and underpinned the defensive display of the tournament so far.

There were also plaudits for coach Didier Deschamps, with Jeremy Smith of French Football Weekly applauding how the 49-year-old has created structure among France's talented individuals:

Jeremy Smith @jeremysmith98

And yet again - can't heap enough praise on Deschamps. Has created a team that plays for each other, a squad that supports each other, excellent tactical discipline, trusted youngsters, got the best out of Pogba. National hero.

France's blend of flair and physicality is a potent one sure to make Deschamps' men firm favourites for Sunday's final, regardless of who they face.