France fans celebrate by the Arc De Triomphe after semi-final win

Vermaelen believes France will be tougher opponents than five-times world champions Brazil

We lacked a certain spark in front of goal and [France 'keeper Hugo] Lloris made the saves.

"This is why football is magical, it gives everyone emotions".

"It's hard to let ourselves be euphoric just yet, but it's a fantastic feeling (to be in the final)", he said. "We feared them on set pieces, but in the end it was us scoring from one".

Didier Deschamps has been criticised for being overly cautious yet his team produced a very disciplined performance to thwart Belgium, with Raphael Varane a real standout performer.

But the 27-year-old burst onto center stage in knockout matches as Martinez pushed him into a more attacking position.

Sebastian Larsson, on the Swedish team that faces England in a quarterfinals match Saturday, also hoped for good news, saying "all you can do in any situation like that is just pray for them". "We needed this to boost morale in France", said Thierry Dubois, 47. "We came up against a very good Belgium side which controlled the game more than us. We're playing them on Sunday'".

Croatian players crash into photographer, kiss him madly while celebrating victor
A strategic plan launched in 2016 is targeting having "England men's and women's senior teams ready to win in 2022 and 2023". He also said that he would be flying to Russian Federation to watch the final, adding: "I'm just waiting on my visa".

The 25-year-old midfielder, whose solid performances have gone under the radar at this tournament, was once again indomitable in the centre.

"The last two games were against Willian, Douglas Costa and now Mbappe".

While there were questions asked after a far-from-inspiring start, which included a controversial win over Australia and narrowly beating Peru, France still expectedly secured a knockout round spot early from a first round group where they were heavy favorites. A few days later, it was Umtiti rising to head home a corner from the right in the 51st minute.

"Fifa's priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a Federation Internationale de Football Association event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration", a spokesman said.

No team at this World Cup has scored more goals than Belgium (14) and no team has a higher number of different goal scorers (nine) - but there was no way past the French barricades in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night.

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