Les Bleus advance to World Cup final
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (AP):
France are back in the World Cup final for the first time since Zinedine Zidane's headbutt in 2006.
Twelve years after one of football's most infamous moments, Samuel Umtiti used his head to score from a corner kick in the 51st minute and earn France a 1-0 victory over Belgium yesterday in the first of the all-European semi-finals.
The French danced on the field after the final whistle and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 but had been hoping to eliminate his native country as Belgium's assistant coach.
France's fans sang in the stands long past the end of the match, surrounded by yellow-clad security.
They certainly hope to keep the party going on Sunday in the final in Moscow. France will face either Croatia or England, who play today at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital.
"Vive la France! Vive la Republique!" France forward Antoine Griezmann shouted during the post-match celebrations.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to their first major final. Belgium reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but have yet to fulfil their lofty expectations.
The world now gets to see France's luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of US$1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.
Two years ago at home, the French surprisingly lost to Portugal 1-0 in the Euro 2016 title match. In 2006, they were beaten in a penalty shootout by Italy in a World Cup final that was overshadowed by Zidane headbutting opposing player Marco Materazzi in the chest in extra time. Zidane was sent off in what was his final match.