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France reach World Cup final as Belgium's golden generation falls short again

Updated July 11, 2018

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Kylian Mbappe is marked by Marouane Fellaini during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between France and Belgium at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. —AFP
Kylian Mbappe is marked by Marouane Fellaini during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between France and Belgium at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. —AFP
France's defender Samuel Umtiti celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final against Belgium. —AFP
France's defender Samuel Umtiti celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final against Belgium. —AFP

Belgium's golden generation has come up short at a major tournament. Again.

With Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard in fantastic form creating chances for themselves and Romelu Lukaku up front, Vincent Kompany fit again at the heart of the defence and Thibaut Courtois standing tall in goal, these Red Devils racked up more goals than any other team in the World Cup. Through five matches, it looked as if they could finally deliver on their promise.

But with their King Philippe watching from the stands, there was to be no coronation.

After reaching the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1986, Roberto Martinez's talent-packed team lost 1-0 to France on Tuesday at St. Petersburg Stadium on a Samuel Umtiti second-half header from a corner kick.

A Belgium team featuring many of the same stars lost by the same score to Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinal four years ago and then was shocked 3-1 by Wales in the European Championship quarterfinals two years ago.

Even though the first 30 minutes in St. Petersburg, this side had looked different, carving out chances and containing France's counterattacks.

Then the potent Belgian attack gradually faded as France's rock-solid defense handed Belgium its first shutout of the tournament.

Instead of playing Sunday in Moscow for its first World Cup, Belgium will be back in St. Petersburg on Saturday, playing in the third-place match and wondering if its championship window has closed.