Twenty years after France first won the World Cup, Les Bleus moved to within one match of repeating the feats of the celebrated team of 1998 by beating Belgium to reach Sunday’s final.
Didier Deschamps’ men overcame a gifted Belgian team, dubbed the ‘golden generation’ for the talents at its disposal. But though Belgium has the accomplished Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, France has the equally brilliant Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
For all the fizz and sparkle of the attacking talents on display at St Petersburg, it was a set-piece goal from centre-back Samuel Umtiti which set France on its way to a first World Cup final since 2006.
The Barcelona man’s 51st-minute winning header made him the third French defender to score at this tournament. A portent sign perhaps — the last time three French defenders scored at a World Cup was in 1998.
While Les Bleus prepare to face either England or Croatia for the sport’s biggest prize, Belgium must compete in the third-place playoff Saturday having suffered a first defeat in nearly two years.