Belgium denied by 'small margins' in France defeat, says Martinez


And yet, this France was unrecognizable from the French sides they had grown up watching at previous World Cups.

"With my brothers, we have always been more supporters of France than Belgium because we grew up with '98", said the Chelsea man, who hails from the French-speaking area of Belgium.

At 19, Mbappe wasn't even born when France won the World Cup for the first and only time with a squad that is just as diverse as the one Deschamps is leading 20 years later.

Mbappe, Hazard and Neymar were identified as the most likely targets and after his performance in the World Cup semi-final, the exceptional French youngster seems like the ideal fit for Ronaldo's shoes.

Saint Petersburg: France reached the World Cup final on Tuesday after a second-half header from Samuel Umtiti gave team a 1-0 win over Belgium.

"The players showed incredible focus and incredible togetherness".

Meanwhile, France coach Didier Deschamps is confident he has prepared his players for any tactical surprises his opposite number Martinez might spring.

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"But he did know that, from the time he was joining the management team and becoming assistant to Martinez, that could happen". It never materialized, and after a final few minutes of French keep-away, the game was over and Les Bleus were through to the final having shut down the tournament's best offense.

Martinez' men are the only side to have won all of their games in 90 minutes in Russian Federation and are the tournament's top scorers with 14 goals.

And he says England fans will not care who wins, because they believe football is coming home.

"We wanted to get into the final", he said. But there haven't been one or two secrets to make it work, it's been common sense.

Members of the Belgian squad. This allowed De Bruyne to dominate the number ten zone (by dropping into it, rather than hover there, which is easier to mark) and Lukaku to arc into the centre-forward spaces left when De Bruyne vacated (and pulled centre-backs with him). De Bruyne just missed out on end-of-season honors from the players' and writers because of Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah's goal glut. "That's the quality that he has".

There are concerns that fatigue could be a factor for Zlatko Dalic's side, given they were forced to come through 120 minutes and penalties against both the hosts and Denmark in the last two rounds. Will they do something similar against us? "We worked very hard". In the 51st minute, French defender Samuel Umtiti, who had looked like a liability at times during the first half, angled in a gorgeous header to put his team up. "If you are going to have to lose such a match, which is bearable, it is the manner in which our players lost, pushing for everything, trying everything until the final whistle".

France will face the victor of the second semifinal between England and Croatia, which kicks off on Thursday at 6am (NZ Time).