Eden Hazard: 'I prefer to lose with Belgium than win with France'

Eden Hazard: 'I prefer to lose with Belgium than win with France'

The defensive midfielder missed the 2-0 quarter-final victory over Uruguay after collecting his second yellow card of the tournament, but was recalled for the game in St Petersburg in place of Corentin Tolisso.

In an enthralling, albeit highly tactical rather than incident-packed match, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti's near-post header from an Antoine Griezmann corner settling matters.

For some reason, the BBC commentator said that the game would perhaps "open-up" when the first goal came.

For the third straight knockout match, France needed a game-changing goal from a defender despite boasting a fearsome attacking pair of 19-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe and Euro 2016 Golden Boot victor Antoine Griezmann.

Didier Deschamp's men overcame a gifted Belgian team, dubbed the "golden generation" for the talents at its disposal.

England or Croatia stand between the 1998 winners and a second world crown, but France will be favourites to lift the trophy in Moscow on Sunday.

The other detail lies in Belgium's match statistics: despite completing 594 passes - more than 91 per cent of which were successful - to France's 345, and enjoying almost 64 per cent possession, Belgium only managed three on-target attempts on Hugo Lloris' goal.

"It is true it is a little peculiar to see him with the Belgium team", said Lloris.

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But it was PSG star Kylian Mbappe who was the real star of the game, running Belgium ragged with his remarkable mix of pace and skill.

Against five-time champions Brazil, Martinez played De Bruyne further up and told his team to shift from a three-man defense to a back four, depending on possession.

It had been suggested that France needed to step up a level in quality if they were to get past the Belgians and they did just that. "We weren't in control two years ago against Argentina". They are used to being in big games so I don't want any of my players to be frustrated or disappointed. I didn't find it. France scored first and it became hard.

It is the first time since 1998 that the nation of just over four million people have reached this stage of the competition, after they eliminated Russian Federation in a penalty shootout at the weekend.

On Saturday they will set about securing third place, which would be the country's best ever World Cup placing.

Dembele endured a hard evening before being substituted not long in the second half, while Kevin de Bruyne did not exert his usual control until he was moved into a more central role.

France - Lloris 7, Pavard 7, Varane 8, Umtiti 8, Hernandez 7, Pogba 7, Kante 8, Mbappe 9, Griezmann 7, Matuidi 8, Giroud 7.