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France edge past Belgium 1-0 to enter their third final in last six World Cups

Defender Umtiti scores as The Red Devils once again fail to cross the penultimate hurdle after 1986 loss to Argentina

St Petersburg: 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. Earlier, Moussa Dembele was a surprise pick to replace suspended Thomas Meunier in Belgium’s side and Blaise Matuidi was restored to France midfield.

Match in numbers

  • 32nd headed goal Umtiti scored on Wednesday at this World Cup.
  • 5 goals at this WC Griezmann has been involved with so far. Only Harry Kane (6 goals) has been involved in more goals than him.
  • 1998 was the last time a team came from behind and won a World Cup semifinal. Interestingly, it was France who did so against Croatia.

1st WC meeting between England and Croatia to decide 2nd finalists

Moscow: The last time England were in a World Cup semifinal (1990), Croatia were yet to gain independence. That happened a year later. Now the two sides are preparing to meet in the last four of the tournament on Wednesday, with Croatia, who last reached the semifinal in 1998, hoping to reach the final for the first time and England hoping to end a 52-year wait to bring the trophy home. Indeed, this will be first World Cup meeting between the two sides.

Head-to-head

  • 4-2 England won Vs Croatia at Euro 2004, the only meeting between the two sides at a major tournament.
  • 7 matches they have played so far with England winning 4, losing 2 and drawing 1.
  • 2007 the last time Croatia beat Eng. The win was the infamous “Wally with the Brolly” match which Croatia won 3-2

Croatia in numbers

  • 2nd semifinal Croatia will play on Wednesday. They last played the last 4 on their debut in 1998.
  • 1 WC knockout match Croatia have lost so far which was against France in 1998 semifinal
  • 1 European nation (France 1998) managed to beat Croatia in eight World Cup matches so far. Croatia have won 5 and drawn 2.
  • 9 competitive games Croatia have won on a trot since losing 1-0 to Turkey in September 2017.

 England in numbers

  • 3rd semifinal England will play on Wednesday following their 2-1 win over Portugal in 1966 and their penalty shootout defeat to West Germany in 1990.
  • 3 semis Eng have lost at major tournaments (Euro 96 v Germany, 1990 World Cup v West Germany and Euro 68 v Yugoslavia) so far.
  • 1982 the last time England have beaten two European nations in a single World Cup. They beat Czechoslovakia and France then.
  • 2 matches Eng have lost out of their last 30 competitive matches (W22, D6) since losing their first 2 matches at the 2014 World Cup.
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