World Cup Today: French efficiency carries it into final

For the third time in its history, France has advanced to the World Cup final, thanks to a 1-0 win over Belgium in Tuesday's semifinal in St. Petersburg.

For the first half of the opening 45 minutes, the Red Devils, who came into the game with the tournament's best offense, dominated, but once France found its rhythm it was in command.

Here are five reasons why Les Bleus are headed to the final.

1. French low block is impenetrable. There is nothing fancy about how France plays. It operates with a low block defensively and lives for the counterattack. When you have center backs like Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti and central midfielders like N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, you can let teams come at you.

For the first 20 minutes, Eden Hazard caused all kinds of problems for the French, running from his left side, but Kante did just enough to neutralize his Chelsea teammate. That was sufficient as Varane and Umtiti rendered center forward Romelu Lukaku totally ineffective.

2.  Lloris makes another big save. France is long way from the 2010 World Cup when players refused to train after Nicolas Anelka was sent home, and Les Bleus were a national disgrace. The only player who played in South Africa and is still around is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The 2018 World Cup has been a great tournament for goalkeepers. But none has come up with bigger saves than the French captain. In both wins in the group stage -- 2-1 over Australia and 1-0 over Peru -- the Lloris made key saves. In the quarterfinals against Uruguay, he stopped Martin Caceres moments after France had gone ahead late in the first half. In the semifinals, he dove to his right to stop Tottenham teammate Toby Alderweireld in the 22nd minute. Soon after, the momentum of the game shifted dramatically.

3. Umtiti follows in footsteps of Tresor and Thuram. The French dominated the rest of the first half and took charge in the 51st minute when Umtiti escaped from Alderweireld and beat Marouane Fellaini to Antoine Griezmann's corner kick. It marked the third straight game in which a French defender scored after Benjamin Pavard against Argentina and Varane with another set-piece header against Uruguay.

The Cameroon-born Umtiti, who has had his shaky moments at the tournament, also became the third French defender to score in a World Cup semifinal after Marius Tresor in overtime of France's epic match against West Germany in 1982 and Lilian Thuram, whose two goals rallied France past Croatia in 1998.

4. France wins the game on the outside. The one player suspended for the semifinals was the Thomas Meunier, one of two Belgian players who currently play in France's Ligue 1. The Red Devils often dropped into a 4-4-2 with the Paris St. Germain player at right back against Brazil. But it never found the right balance against France in the semifinals.

Without Meunier, Belgium was unable to contain Blas Matuidi, considered the weakest offensive threat of the French front four players. On the other side, Kylian Mbappe tormented Alderweireld.

5. Giroud comes up empty again but ... France finished with 19-9 edge in shots and should have won by a bigger margin. Olivier Giroud once again failed to score, extending his score streak at the World Cup to 465 minutes.

But the 31-year-old striker, the oldest player in the French starting lineup, worked tirelessly up front to create chances for himself and his teammates and it was on one of his chances blocked for a corner kick that led to Umtiti's winning goal.

1 comment about "World Cup Today: French efficiency carries it into final".
  1. beautiful game, July 10, 2018 at 10:25 p.m.

    Allez les Bleu

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