France will face England or Croatia in the World Cup final after edging past European neighbours Belgium in the semi-final in St Petersburg. Defender Samuel Umtiti scored the winning goal for the 1998 champions in the second half with a towering header from Antoine Griezmann’s corner. Didier Deschamps’ side were on the back foot for large periods of the game, but emerged victorious to reach their third final, having been beaten by Italy on penalties in 2006.
Belgium came through the quarter-finals by impressively beating Brazil, but they were unable to find the equaliser, as Axel Witsel’s powerful, long-range drive was pushed away by Hugo Lloris, who also brilliantly kept out Toby Alderweireld’s turn and shot. At the final whistle, the France substitutes ran on the pitch to celebrate with the players, while manager Deschamps was mobbed by his staff before dancing around in a circle.
England’s bid to reach a first World Cup final since 1966 came to an agonising end as they lost in extra time to Croatia in Moscow. Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute of the semi-final, slotting in from Ivan Perisic’s flick-on into the area. England – in their first World Cup semi-final since they were beaten on penalties by West Germany at Italia ’90 – were given the perfect start through Kieran Trippier’s 20-yard free-kick after only five minutes, but Perisic’s 68th-minute equaliser sent the match into extra time.
England’s players were inconsolable at the final whistle as the dream was snatched away and the pain was etched on their faces as well as that of manager Gareth Southgate – but they can take great pride and credit from this tournament. Croatia, in sharp contrast, were jubilant and will now face France in the final in Moscow on Sunday.