France secured their place in the World Cup final with a 1-0 semi final win over rivals Belgium, and Didier Deschamps’ now face their third ever final in the competition.
Les Bleus were earmarked as amongst the favourites to win the World Cup before a ball was even kicked in Russia, however a low key group stage performance dampened expectations.
A VAR-assisted win over Australia, followed by an unconvincing win over Peru and a dull 0-0 draw with Denmark saw the French through as Group C leaders.
However from there on they have excelled, putting themselves a clear favourites to now win their first World Cup since their victory on home soil in 1998.
The 4-3 win against Argentina was arguably the game of the tournament – with teenage striker Kylian Mbappe announcing himself fully on the international stage with two goals in a man of the match display.
But despite the eye catching nature of that win, their subsequent victories over Uruguay and Belgium have displayed as much needed steel that is vital to success at a World Cup.
Deschamps’ side conceded just one goal during the group stages – a penalty from Australia’s Mile Jedinak – and they have reestablished that defensive pragmatism in their last two games.
Successive clean sheets against Luis Suarez, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne is no easy feat, however France have tightened up at just the right moment.
They have also been helped by being able to name the same back four in all three of their knockout matches so far.
Full backs Pavard and Hernandez are the biggest surprises – with both only starting due to fitness issues for Djibril Sidibe and Bernard Mendy ahead of the tournament.
However they have acquitted themselves very well, with Pavard scoring one of the goals of the tournament so far – against Argentina.
In central defence, Varane and Umtiti have continued their strong into the World Cup, forming a partnership reminiscent of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique with Spain.
As well as remaining disciplined in defence they have both scored key goals against Uruguay and Belgium.
Strong aerially, with good positional sense they have the potential to remain as a pair for years and tournaments to come – and they could kick start their partnership with a World Cup crown at the weekend.
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