• France leads Belgium, 1-0, after a Samuel Umtiti goal in the 51st minute of this World Cup semfinal game in St. Petersburg.
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How to watch: In the U.S., Fox and Telemundo have the broadcast at 2 p.m., but you can stream it here.
67’: Yellow for Hazard
Eden Hazard gets a yellow there for breaking up the counterattack by dragging down Matuidi, but he had to do it. Fellaini, by the way, has stayed in his advanced role; it’s Witsel who is picking up all the slack in midfield since Dembélé left. It’s a big job, and he can’t make a single mistake.
66’: Fellaini … Just Wide!
Mertens crosses, and Fellaini is there, single covered by Pogba, with the head that has scored so many goals. This one goes just wide though.
62’: Belgium Grabs Possession
Hazard, Lukaku and Mertens combine on some nice passing, but the final touch is not there.
60’: Belgium Makes a Change
Dries Mertens in, Ousmane Dembele out as Belgium tries to shake things up with the first substitution of the game.
Andrew Das: This will make things a bit more exciting, that’s for sure. But it also will require a bit more defensively from Fellaini now, because France senses blood in the water here, and they’re coming forward fast when they can.
56’: Giroud … Blocked!
Kylian Mbappé sends Olivier Giroud on goal with a spectacular back heel, but Giroud’s shot is blocked at the last moment.
Andrew Das: What a chance that was: brilliant backheel from Mbappe after a quick give-and-go involving Hernandez and Matuidi. Really fun, and Belgium is lucky — and can thank Courtois, I believe — that the ball didn’t end up in the net amid ooohs and ahhhs. It must be nice to be good enough to even TRY that in a World Cup semifinal.
55’: Great Opportunity for France
Greizmann has a free kick just outside of the box and it’s another great opportunity for France. But his effort goes right to several Belgians and it is headed away.
51’: GOAL! France Leads
After Vincent Kompany blocks an Olivier Giroud shot, a corner comes in from Antoine Griezmann. Samuel Umtiti simply out-jumps the very tall Marouane Fellaini to score. France has a 1-0 lead.
Andrew Das: Disaster for Belgium: Umtiti dropped Alderweireld and nearly had a free header there. Fellaini arrived late to at least make it a contested one, but the damage was already done and the ball was in the net before Courtois could do anything about it.
48’: Varane Clears It
Witsel lobs in a ball to Lukaku, but Varane of France is all over him, so he gets a head on it but can’t fire off a good shot.
Kevin Draper: It seems appropriate that on the same day Cristiano Ronaldo transfers to Juventus, two of his rumored replacements, Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappé, are the best players in a World Cup match.
Moving the Ball
One stat increasing in popularity is “possession advanced,” which tries to measure which players move the ball forward the most. A player gets full credit for dribbles forward, and half credit for passes. The leader in this game so far is Benjamin Pavard of France at 118 meters. Eden Hazard leads Belgium at 109.
Andrew Das: The stadium does not appear full, especially in some of the best seats near midfield, which seems strange for a World Cup semifinal. But France and Belgium don’t travel like Brazil, which surely thought it’d be here, or a few other countries, and the atmosphere is missing some of the fire we saw when teams from the Americas played earlier in the tournament. Wednesday night’s second semifinal, England and Croatia, ought to have a bit more life as English fans start to arrive in full voice.
Belgium was the short-passing team in this game, controlling possession at 58-42 percent and outpassing France, 318-201. But France’s direct style led to more shots: an 11-3 advantage. Unfortunately for France, only two of those shots were on net. Six were off target, and three were blocked.
Griezmann led the way with four shots for France, although none of those was on target. Belgium has most of its passing coming from the defense, with Alderweireld and Kompany having 50 and 46 passes. Of course, those uncontested sideways passes in Belgium’s end are taking place a long way from where the goals are scored.
Two Halves Within a Half
Andrew Das: You could break that first half into halves of its own. The first one, with Belgium dangerous and on the front foot, was quite a bit of fun. France finally found its feet and had a couple of good chances — a rocket by Matuidi, the Pavard shot late — and a few at the other end, including a late cross that found its way to Lukaku, who seemed so surprised to see it come in (it was the first good one in all 45 minutes) that it hit him like a stone and went out of play.
Both teams will find things to like there: Hazard was excellent, probably the best player on the field, and De Bruyne was dangerous at times, too. But Mbappe’s speed is an undeniable asset running at Vertonghen, and Pogba’s ability to shake off Fellaini in the last 10 minutes is a good sign for France.
Kevin Draper: When France has possessed the ball they’ve played direct. Pogba has played a few 40 yard passes from half field that Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud were almost able to get on the other end of. Antoine Griezmann has taken a few long shots, but hasn’t been nearly as dangerous as he was in previous games.
Halftime: France 0, Belgium 0
in stoppage time, Kevin De Bruyne crossed a ball into the box for Belgium, but Samuel Umtiti got in the way again, altering the course enough that it caroms off the waiting Lukaku’s hip instead of his foot. And that’s halftime!
Kevin Draper: France was a slight favorite before the match began, but on balance Belgium has been the much better team. Belgium has mostly been attacking on the fringes, avoiding N’Golo Kanté in the middle and counting on Romelu Lukaku to keep the center backs occupied. De Bruyne and Hazard have generated a few chances, and Belgium almost scored off of a couple of corner kicks.
44’: Free Kick for France
Paul Pogba gets into a dangerous position, and is pulled down from behind. France gets a great free kick chance. But Griezmann boots it right into the wall.
42’: France Shows Up
France has fully come into this match for the first time in the last five minutes. They still look more comfortable counter attacking than possessing the ball, but they’re starting to generate a few dangerous chances.
40’: Courtois Kicks One Out
Kylian Mbappe plays Benjamin Pavard through with a nice ball, but Courtois manages to tip his shot wide with his back heel. France’s corner kick is then cleared by the first man.
Andrew Das: Gorgeous exchange between Pavard and Mbappé there, but it’s the defender who winds up with the ball and closing on Courtois, who gets a toe on the wayward shot and keeps it out.
37’: Giroud Gets the Magic Spray
Olivier Giroud goes down clutching the back of his right leg after getting clipped. The magic freezing spray is liberally applied to the injured leg, and he hops up good as new.
Andrew Das: The contact that brought down Giroud really seemed innocuous, but he’s really hurting. Just got clipped on the heel, but he’s holding his head like it was a sword wound.
34’: Great Chance for France
A long ball finds Kylian Mbappe inside the box, and he crosses it on the ground to Olivier Giroud, a step in front of his defender. But Giroud can only half-slide and swing at the ball, and his shot goes well wide. That was France’s best chance so far.
Andrew Das: Giroud really failed Mbappé on that last cross. He was late getting back onside and was watching as the young forward ran on to an overlapping ball, but only belatedly seemed to realize, ‘You know, that might get cross — oh no.’ And when he did realize, he was a step late to the ball, and the chance was wasted.
33’: Giroud Goes Down
The first of what we would expect will be numerous penalty appeals in the game as Giroud goes down. The ref is not having it. Then Griezmann gets the ball and shoots with his less effective right foot and misses.
32’: Hazard and De Bruyne Toying With France
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne look like the best two players on the pitch. Hazard just filleted Pavard and Pogba but the ball rolled out just before he could control it again, but if he keeps dribbling like that he’s sure to get a goal or assist.
Andrew Das: It’s strange how Fellaini gets involved in so much of what Belgium does up top — crosses, corners — but only with his head. It’s like his teammates won’t pass the ball to his feet. But he’s playing very advanced, just a step or two behind Lukaku, and apparently tasked with winning headers and, failing that, breaking up French attacks before they can start. As soon as he does either of those, he’s off to find Pogba.
32’: Another Miss for France
Antoine Griezmann takes the free kick for France. He sends it in and Pavard chips it in to Giroud, who hits it wide with his head.
29’: Umtiti Saves France!
Samuel Umtiti saves the day for France. Kevin De Bruyne crosses the ball low right in front of net and Romelu Lukaku is right there for the poke in. But Umtiti slides in and clears in a last-ditch move.
26’: Fellaini vs. Pogba
Fellaini and Pogba are effectively attached at the hip, which is probably not altogether new for either of them, since it probably happens in training at Manchester United quite a bit. But Belgium will take that cold war any day; Pogba is a far more dangerous player when he gets loose. But he can’t get loose, and when Fellaini bodies him, he doesn’t seem to like it. Which may be precisely the point of doing it.
25’: Fellaini in the Right Spot
First corner for France (Belgium has four). Felliani easily heads it away.
23’: France Counterattacks
Another long pass from halfway, and this time Olivier Giroud is on it for France. He lunges for it, doesn’t get quite all of it, and it goes wide.
Kevin Draper: It is quite surprising how flat France has begun this game. They have just as many all-world attackers as Belgium and a defense anchored by stalwarts from Real Madrid and Barcelona, and yet they look like they have already conceded that Belgium is the much better team.
22’: Belgium Firing Away
Off of yet another corner, the ball trickles free to Toby Alderweireld at the penalty spot. His left-footed shot is punched out by Hugo Lloris for another corner kick, which amounts to nothing.
Andrew Das: Belgium has come close about four times in the past five minutes — the last on that Alderweireld shot off the corner that Lloris was lucky to save with a dive. It’s been a really entertaining first 20 minutes, but 90 percent of that has been Belgium nearly scoring.That they haven’t may be the one good thing France has done so far.
20’: Scare for France
De Bruyne tries a little chip-shot pass to Felliani, who is just about offsides, although the flag does not go up. Lloris punches it away after a moment of terror for France.
19’: Varane Saves One
Eden Hazard whips a shot towards the outside post from inside the box, but Raphaël Varane barely got the back of his head on it to hit it behind for a corner.
18’: France Fires, but Courtois Is There
Blaise Matuidi, returning to France’s lineup for this game, fires off a shot from outside the box that forces Courtois into a save.
Andrew Das: That was a rocket from Matuidi, and a great sign for France. But it hits Courtois right in the gloves. But once again, Belgium is right back at the other end in seconds, with Hazard lashing a shot that Varane nods jussssst over the crossbar behind a beaten Lloris.
16’: Hazard Misses
Off an interception, Kevin De Bruyne plays a quick one-touch ball to Eden Hazard in the box and he’s unmarked. But Hazard hits it wide right! Good chance.
Kevin Draper: Both Belgium and France have had their best chances of the match in the last few minutes, and perhaps not coincidentally both came quickly after turnovers. This might be a match of intentionally soaking up pressure in order to entice midfielders forward, before hitting back on the counter attack.
14’: De Bruyne Loses One
Kevin De Bruyne just attacked the French defense at speed, but a miscommunication with Romelu Lukaku caused a turnover and ruined the chance.
13’: Pogba Finds Mbappe
A long through ball from halfway by Paul Pogba finds Kylian Mbappe, and he’s a half step ahead of his man. But Courtois slides down to grab it just in time.
Andrew Das: Belgium in a bit of a fluid formation, with Witsel and Dembele protecting the back three, and Chadli dropping in at eight back when France has the ball and he has time.
10’: France Flickers
A rare venture forward by Griezmann and France brings their fans to life — but only briefly, as Kompany clears the first sign of danger with a powerful header. And back down the other end we go ….
Kevin Draper: Both teams have shown ruthless counterattacking prowess this tournament, and so each attack seems cautious in throwing numbers forward. Belgium is patiently probing the French defense, with Axel Witsel and Mousa Dembele both staying at home to protect the back three.
9’: Belgium the Better Side Right Now
Belgium’s passing has been crisp and prolific so far, with France going some extended periods without touching the ball.
6’: Corner for Belgium
Nacer Chadli’s corner is a little too strong and goes over his teammates’ heads.
4’: Belgium Keeps Possession
That early burst of brilliance by Mbappe has been followed by a few minutes of Belgium trying whatever it wants on the right.
1’: Mbappe Makes a Statement
it took Mbappe all of five seconds to drop Vertonghen like a bad penny, race down the wing and flash in a cross that ALMOST met Griezmann in stride. Great start for France.
Kickoff in St. Petersburg!
Belgium in red, France in blue.
Feeling like Nostradamus?
You can bet on the exact score of the game (after 90 minutes). The favorite is 1-1, followed by 1-0 France, 0-0, 2-1 France, 1-0 Belgium and 2-1 Belgium. Think regulation time will end in tie of 4-4 or higher? If you’re right, you’ll be rewarded with a payout of 400-1.
Yellow Cards Are Cleared
Yellow cards were wiped out after the quarterfinals, so anyone who picks one up today would still be eligible to play in Sunday’s final. A red card, though, is a different story; anyone sent off today faces a one-match ban.
France’s Starting Lineup
France sticks with what’s worked: Pavard-Varane-Umtiti-Hernandez across the back, protected by Kanté and Pogba as needed. Matuidi, Griezmann and Mbappé will swirl in and around Giroud, who starts alone up top
Goalkeeper: 1 Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Defenders: 21 Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), 2 Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), 5 Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), 4 Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: 13 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), 14 Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), 6 Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Forwards: 9 Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), 7 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), 10 Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain)
Belgium’s Starting Lineup
Belgium, too,, sticks with what’s working: Fellaini starts again with Witsel and Mousa Dembélé in a hard-working, flanked by Nacer Chadli and De Bruyne. Hazard and Lukaku up front, and the same three-man back line that got them this far: Vertonghen, Kompany and Alderweireld.
Goalkeeper: 1 Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Defenders: 2 Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), 4 Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), 5 Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Midfielders: 7 Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), 19 Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), 8 Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), 10 Eden Hazard (Chelsea), 6 Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)
Forwards: 22 Nacer Chadli (West Brom), 9 Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)