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Didier Deschamps

Deschamps hails French character after semifinal win

Wed, July 11, 2018 16:49

MOSCOW, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - France coach Didier Deschamps hailed the character of his young team after they beat Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to set up a World Cup final against either England or Croatia in Moscow.

Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header at St Petersburg Stadium sent the French into the final, where they will be seeking their second win since 1998 - when Deschamps captained them on home soil.

"It was exceptional," Deschamps said in a pitchside interview.

"I'm very happy for my players, we showed character and the right mentality, it was very hard for us tonight. We worked hard defensively.

"We had to take advantage a bit more in the counter attacks. but congratulations to my players and my staff. I feel very proud for my group," said Deschamps, who is aiming to join Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo as the only men to have won the World Cup as both a player and a manager.

"Forty-nine days together, it is a lot of things, difficult things, the group stage, it is the merit of everyone."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also proud of his players despite the defeat.

"Unfortunately for us the difference was a dead-ball situation. The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal," said the Spaniard.

"I thought the attitude of the players was magnificent and I couldn't ask for any more. The players gave everything and were pushing until the last second to get back in the game.

"That's the detail you get in the semifinal of the World Cup.

"We're disappointed, we wanted to get into the final, we need to put this behind us and look forward to the next game. We need to go out on a real high, these players deserve that."

Goalscorer Umtiti said the win had come on the back of the work of the entire team.

"A lot of pride," said the defender. "We worked hard ... I scored but we delivered a good match and I'm very proud of everyone. They worked in '98 and we worked today, we reached out target to get to the final, I'm very satisfied."

Meanwhile, a wave of euphoria swept across France late on Tuesday and a nation of ardent soccer fans began dreaming of World Cup glory after Les Bleus defeated Belgium 1-0 to reach the final.

Delirious supporters draped in the Tricolor flag spilt on to Parisian boulevards as the blare of car horns reverberated through the French capital.

In a fan zone outside City Hall on the banks of the River Seine, jubilant supporters embraced and lit smoke flares.

"I'm totally blown away, this is crazy," said 41-year-old Gilles Rove in Paris' Belleville neighbourhood. "Nobody believed this could happen at the beginning of the World Cup, but this team has really shown something in recent weeks.

"This team gives me goosebumps, even more so than the team of 1998," he added, in reference to the last time France won the World Cup, on home soil against Brazil 20 years ago.

Tens of thousands of fans poured on to the Champs Elysees as bars, cafes and restaurants enjoyed a bumper evening of revelry after the World Cup equivalent of a local derby, a match between neighbours with a heavy dose of national rivalry and friendly banter flowing in the run-up.

"We're going to the final, we're going to the final," scores chanted in one central Paris bar before breaking out into an impromptu rendition of the La Marseillaise national anthem.

"A Duel Between Friends" France's Journal du Dimanche had declared, with a cartoon on the front page taken from the comic book "Asterix in Belgium", when the plucky Gauls encounter a rival tribe from across the border.

Some French fans were already looking forward to a possible final clash against long-time rivals England, who play Croatia in the second semifinal on Wednesday.

"Our unfortunate Belgian cousins were just not quite good enough. But it was Europe which won, and it would be amusing if we were to beat the English," said 45-year-old Francois Garnier who watched the game near the Eiffel Tower.

In St Petersburg, ecstatic French fans sang their way out of the stadium, relishing the prospect of a final against England or Croatia.

Belgium fans filed quietly out of the arena, but remained proud in defeat after their first semifinal appearance since 1986.

"Today we were a little bit unlucky, but it could have been the both sides (who could win) so we played well. I am happy that I came here and now we will go for the third place," Belgium fan Patrick Robert Wouters said.

"I am proud of my team," he added.

France won in front of President Emmanuel Macron, who went down to the players' dressing-room after the match.

Asked what Macron told the players, Les Bleus young forward Kylian Mbappe told TF1: "He said he would come back for the final, to see us with the cup."

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