The French are the first side to reach the final of the ongoing FIFA World Cup.
The two teams, who have been the exponents of eye-catching, exhilarating football throughout the tournament, lined up for a much-hyped face-off. Les Bleus showed up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, while the Red Devils started off with a 3-4-3 formation that would change to a 3-5-2 whenever they would lose the ball.
After a tight first half, Umtiti headed home from an Antoine Griezmann corner to hand the lead to the French. Despite their best attempts, the Belgians failed to find a way back into the game and were left licking their wounds after the final whistle.
Watch: France 1-0 Belgium highlights
Here are five things that we learned from the game.
5. Kylian Mbappe is a generational talent
In a previous article, we had mentioned about the impact Kylian Mbappe has had on the World Cup so far and how his precocious talent is comparable to Brazilian Ronaldo. He displayed the same qualities once again on Tuesday night, by running the Belgian defence ragged. His first touch, technique, dexterity, game-reading skills and ability to beat players on the run is beyond brilliant for someone so young.
Everyone was under the assumption that it would be Neymar’s Mundial, but instead, it is his protégé at Paris St. Germain who is running the show. If they can protect and nurture him, Mbappe can be to French football what a young George Best was to Irish football.
4. Romelu Lukaku is not an elite striker
Lukaku has been the subject of ire and ridicule for the longest time possible. The Belgian has been criticized for his first touch and poor finishing, but ever since he scored 27 goals in his debut season for Manchester United, his critics have been silenced.
He was splendid in the World Cup as well, especially against Brazil in the quarterfinals. However, against a combination of N’Golo Kante, Umtiti and Raphael Varane, the 25-year-old proved to be ineffective over and over again. He has a long way to go before he can be considered an elite striker, but he can certainly get there.
3. Paul Pogba steps up whenever his side calls for help
Just like Lukaku, Pogba has been the subject of incessant ridicule since his arrival at United. In the Mundial however, he has bought his A-Game and has shut up all his detractors.
Against Belgium, Deschamps used him as a creative fulcrum, making those determined runs through the centre of the pitch. while in the second half; he was used as a defensive midfielder to sit and protect the defense. He did both jobs equally well and will be eager to carry this form into the final as well.
2. Hazard flatters to deceive
Eden Hazard was handed the captain’s armband against France and he was at it right from the word go. He repeatedly drove into the steely French defense over and over again, but failed to make much of an impact in the first half.
In the second, he dropped deeper to act as the creative fulcrum in midfield, but that hampered his natural game. The Chelsea player is being monitored by Real Madrid to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, but performances like these could hamper his chances of ever making it to the Bernabeu.
1. Antoine Griezmann was magical
Antoine Griezmann featured as the attacking midfielder for France in this game and he was brilliant at it. He not only set up many French attacks, but also contributed to the cause by tracking back and marking from corners.
Interestingly, his use as a trequartista threw a lot of Belgian plans down the drain and it took the Reds all game to adjust to his positional change. In the final, Deschamps should look to play him in a similar zone to cause more headaches to the opposition.