Either France or Belgium would walk away with a golden ticket stamped for the World Cup Finals in Moscow. Both teams coming into this match were in a great run of form — but who would be better on the night? Would it be one of the youngest France teams to be at the World Cup, or would it be the golden generation of Belgium?
France came out of the gate and immediately put pressure on Belgium, showing that they came out to play. Belgium would oblige them and both teams would enjoy spells of possession. Things would start to slow down a bit around the 15th minute, as both teams started to feel each other out.
It would take until the quarter hour mark for a shot to be registered on goal. Eden Hazard would flash a shot just wide across the mouth of Hugo Lloris’ net. A couple minutes later, Hazard was at it again — this time Varane heading the ball away from danger.
France would start really showing signs of life around the half-hour mark. Griezmann would streak in on goal in the 37th minute — played in by Mbappe — but would be denied by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The first half would come to an end, deadlocked at 0 - 0.
After the restart, it would take France six minutes to change the complexity of the game. It was Samuel Umtiti who would head the ball past Courtois from a French corner kick. This was the turning point in the match as Belgium would be forced to open up and chase the game.
After the goal, France would start to turn the screws on Belgium, holding most of the possession. But as the match wore on, the French were more than happy to sit back and absorb pressure and spring a counter. France’s defense was locked in all night, and the pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane put in a world class performance.
France would really sit back with about 15 minutes to go, absorbing Belgium’s pressure well. Varane would assert his authority several times as Belgium tried and tried to get the equalizer needed to send the match into extra time. That wouldn’t be the case as Belgium were unable to score.
He had himself a very solid night. It was his center-back partner, Umtiti, that got all the spotlight scoring the match’s only goal. He was getting rid of anything in the box, and had several key clearances throughout the match, including a clearing header in stoppage time as Belgium was knocking on the door.
On the world stage Varane is showing what we Madridista’s already know — he’s one of the best center-backs around. This tournament has done wonders for Varane and watching him has been a treat. He’s truly become a world class defender. He’s smooth and never shaken. Nothing less than solid.