France reach World Cup final after beating Belgium 1-0

France's defender Samuel Umtiti celebrates after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup semifinal football match between France and Belgium. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD)
Updated 11 July 2018
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France reach World Cup final after beating Belgium 1-0

  • 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

SAINT PETERSBURG: 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 on Tuesday in the first of the all-European semifinals.
The French players 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 and is now Belgium's assistant coach.
France will face either Croatia or England in the final on Sunday in Moscow. Those two teams play in the other semifinal match on Wednesday, also in Moscow.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced 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 quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but have yet to fulfil the country's lofty expectations.
The world now gets to see France's luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $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 final.

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.
In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France took the lead from a corner. Antoine Griezmann curled in the ball from the right and Umtiti got in front of tall Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini to knock in his header at the near post.
Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.
The goal capped an impressive display by Umtiti, who helped to shut out the most productive attack in the World Cup with 14 goals, and meant three defenders have now scored on France's route to the final. Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane scored in previous matches.
In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane, both center backs, used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku.
France coach Didier Deschamps has faced some criticism for being too pragmatic and functional despite having so many stars in his squad, but the organization of the team was superb and Belgium were largely restricted to only minor chances that were kept out by the flying Lloris.
Deschamps now has the chance to become the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, after Germany great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo. As France captain, Deschamps won football's most prized trophy in 1998.


Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 11 December 2018
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Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

  • Tournament gets under way on Wednesday when Al-Ain take on Team Wellington at home.
  • UAE midfielder sure his side can cause a few shocks.

LONDON: While he is only too aware of the quality opposition they have to face, Al-Ain midfielder Ahmed Barman is backing “The Boss” to scare a few teams in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament gets under way when the UAE outfit face Team Wellington on their home ground in the opener today. Last year saw fellow Arabian Gulf League side Al-Jazira reach the semifinal where they gave Real Madrid a huge fright before narrowly losing 2-1. And inspired by that march to the last four, Barman is looking for Al-Ain to go one better and become the first Emirati side to make the final.
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a global competition coveted by every club,” Barman said. “Al-Ahli, Al-Jazira and Al-Wahda participated in this tournament before and did their part, putting the UAE on the world map. We at Al-Ain hope to reach the semi-final, as Al-Jazira did, or do even better.”
Before any tournament it is only natural to dream of glory and lifting the trophy in front of adoring fans. But the midfielder is not getting too cocky, revealing that despite having home advantage Al-Ain are taking absolutely nothing for granted, starting with Wednesday’s clash against the Kiwis.
“There’s no doubt that we’re aiming to reach the final and face a giant like Real Madrid, but first we have to focus on our opening match against Team Wellington,” the 24-year-old said.
“We need to win to progress from this round and play the subsequent games until we reach the final against Real Madrid and show a standard of play the UAE can be proud of.”
Barman is not anticipating an easy opener.
“Team Wellington are a very good team with considerable ability. They won their local league and the OFC Champions League, which proves they’re powerful.
“So, all our focus is on this opening match. We’re annualizing our opponents to understand their capabilities as we prepare to perform well on the pitch and get positive result.”
The UAE champions did not have the best preparation for their stab at Club World Cup glory, losing 5-2 to Al-Wasl in the UAE President’s Cup at the weekend.
That result, while clearly not ideal, has not bothered the side’s coach.
“We cannot win every game, what is gone is gone, it’s full concentration on the match ahead,” Zoran Mamic said.
“There are no rules that Al-Ain cannot lose games, that’s why I don’t make any drama.”
But while Barman was keen to invoke the memory of Al-Jazira’s march to the last four, his boss was less so, telling his team to focus on the match at hand before getting ahead of themselves.
“We are not here to talk about last year, just as we are not here to talk about the future,” the Croatian said. “We are here to represent the club in the best possible way. We focus on the match at hand and everything will take care of itself.”
Of today’s opponents he added: “We have watched all their games, we know their strengths and where they are not so strong. They are particularly good offensively, they play with fast wingers and a striker who is a good scorer, they play a system that is unusual to us because no teams in the Emirates play with three in the last line. If we do our job we will (have) a good match.”