Samuel Umtiti clinched a 1-0 win over Belgium - and earned the approval of watching French President Emmanuel Macron in the VIP seats at St. Petersburg Stadium - by scoring on a header off a corner kick in the 51st minute on Tuesday.
Belgium entered the semifinal as the tournament's leading scorers, but Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were muted by France, who clinched their third World Cup final appearance in the last 20 years thanks to Samuel Umtiti's second-half header. This is again not only a reflection of Deschamps' pragmatism, in basing his selection on not only talent, but how France can function as a team and also of his own evolution, as the Deschamps of the recent past, at least in prior to 2016, would never have left out the experience of Sakho, Benzema or Mathieu Debuchy for the untested likes of Pavard or Presnel Kimpembe.
Deschamps' players let Belgium burn itself out, deprived it first of hope, and then of life, all the while not expending a drop of energy more than was strictly necessary.
In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France took the lead from a corner. When he came off yesterday we missed him, but we knew that we had to simply deal with his absence.
Belgium's midfield went from being a strong suit to a weak point, as Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante won the battle in the middle of the park for France.
That has been France's unexpected forte in this tournament: its defensive strength, its imperturbability, the ease with which it blunts an attack. We saw the competitiveness in both teams' game, determination, and maturity. "We could have done better, but we didn't".
'FINISH ON A HIGH' "It's a really sad dressing room now, because the opportunity of being in the final was the only focus we had", added Martinez.
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'We deserved better from this game, even if we expected that sort of game against a team that defends well and plays on the counter-attack'.
For all its possession, Belgium - the top scorers in this competition with 14 goals - were unable to break down a robust French defense, and will rue not capitalizing on its dominant first-half display.
"I prefer to lose with this Belgium than win with this France".
"France played anti-football", Courtois said, per Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
"This team is nowhere near the level they're going to be capable of, partly because of their age and partly because over the next few years, with us and with their clubs, they're going to have more and more big-match experiences". If you see today, there was a moment when [Olivier] Giroud and Griezmann were playing 35 or 40 metres from their goal. "It is their right to play like that. but it is not nice to see".
The prosaic truth may be twofold: that Belgium lost to a France side which, in Mbappe, has a man auditioning for the title of the world's best player and which has greater strength in depth. "You have to accept it and congratulate France and wish them luck in the final".
"We need to understand it's an important game, but I accept it's very hard after a game with the emotions we had today".