World Cup Recap: Semi-final 1

France out-talents Belgium to secure spot in the final

France took a step closer to the World Cup trophy. @FIFAWorldCup verified Twitter account

World Cup Recap: Semi-final 1

France out-talents Belgium to secure spot in the final

 

The semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup opened on Tuesday with the first spot to be decided between the winner of France and Belgium. A battle between two of the most valuable rosters at Russia 2018, some have considered this semi-final as the true “final” because the winner would most likely be favored to lift the cup on Sunday.

 

France 1-0 Belgium
Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
Attendance: 64,286

 

One goal - the minimal difference - was the decider in a battle of two teams stacked with a handful of Europe’s elite players. France’s Hugo Lloris and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois - two of the best goalkeepers in the world - were tested early in the first half. Eden Hazard led the way in attack for Belgium while the best opportunity for France came from a long-range attempt by Blaise Matuidi. France generated more opportunities overall but both teams were almost even on shots on goal. The scoreboard would be even at halftime.

 

The moment of the game came in the 51st minute. France, off a corner, took the lead with a header from Samuel Umtiti. The FC Barcelona man found enough separation to power the ball past Courtois. France would play more defensively through the second half but would still play for the second goal when the opportunity showed itself. Belgium would obviously show more urgency to score but would struggle to break down the French defense. Kevin De Bruyne, the Premier League assist king for the past season, was held in check and Eden Hazard’s attempts fell short of a goal. France would win 1-0 in regulation.

 

France advances to their first World Cup final since Germany 2006

Les Blues return to a final after also being finalists two years ago at Euro 2016. On that occasion, France fell short of being crowned European Champions on home soil. That heartbreak is an experience that this squad has surely tapped into in their attempt to win their country’s second World Cup title. The big doubt around this squad was how this “Millennial” squad would perform at the sport’s biggest tournament. Well, France has lived up to it and they’ve done so without one single superstar carrying the team. The scary thing about France is that they are a team of superstars, much like Belgium, and that’s why they will be thought of as the favorite on Sunday. If they pull it off, they will have won it on foreign soil as their only title so far has come at France 1998.

Belgium still able to match or better their best performance

Boasting perhaps their best collection of players ever, the Belgium Red Devils are heartbroken to have missed out on playing the final. They met their match in France and fell short of their dream. With the bulk of their star players ranging from ages 27-32, this was the World Cup where the stars needed to align for Belgium. Belgium’s best finish at a World Cup has been fourth place and this squad could better that with a win on Saturday. That and the $2 million difference in prize money should be enough to see Belgium wanting to finish on a high, but as the years go forth, Belgium may always wonder what might havve been. There is hope yet for this group of players and that’s title or bust at Euro 2020.

Notable stat: France ended a 24-match winning streak for Belgium.

Programming notes:

Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting from The Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr. Houston, TX 77005) with a two-hour LIVE show, airing on ESPN 97.5 FM, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Blitz will be broadcasting from the Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria (2626 Sage Rd, Houston, Texas 77056) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Former Houston Dynamo forward and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Brian Ching, will be a guest on the show.

Podcasts of both shows are available at PodcastArena.com.

Remaining World Cup Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, July 11 (semifinal)

1 p.m. - Croatia vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)

Saturday, July 14 (Third place match)

9 a.m. - Belgium vs. Croatia/England loser (FOX, Telemundo)

Sunday, July 15 (Final)

10 a.m. - France vs. Croatia/England winner (FOX, Telemundo)

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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