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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."

MEXICO CITY, July 2, 2018 (News Wires) — Angry and frustrated over corruption and violence, Mexican voters delivered a tidal wave presidential election victory to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, giving him a broad mandate to upend the political establishment and govern for the poor.

An official quick count from electoral authorities late Sunday forecast that Lopez Obrador would win with between 53 per cent and 53.8 per cent of the votes, a remarkable margin not seen in the country for many years. Early Monday, with about 20 per cent of the votes counted, Lopez Obrador's advantage was close to the quick count's statistical sample.

A prominent exit poll predicted his party allies were poised to score big victories in congressional races, possibly winning absolute majorities in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

Lopez Obrador, who campaigned on vows to transform Mexico and oust the "mafia of power" ruling the country, rode widespread voter anger and discontent with the governing Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, of President Enrique Pena Nieto and had led opinion polls since the beginning of the campaign.

The PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for nearly the entire 20th century and recaptured the presidency in 2012, was set to suffer heavy losses not just for the presidency but in other races as well.

In brief remarks at a hotel in central Mexico City, Lopez Obrador called for reconciliation after a polarising campaign and promised profound change but with respect for the law and constitutional order.

"I confess that I have a legitimate ambition: I want to go down in history as a good president of Mexico," said Lopez Obrador, who won after losses in the previous two elections. "I desire with all my soul to raise the greatness of our country on high."

The president-in-waiting, whose term will begin December 1, devoted much of his speech to appealing to citizens of all stripes and seeking to reassure those who have eyed his candidacy nervously.

"This new national project will seek to establish an authentic democracy and we do not intend to establish a dictatorship," Lopez Obrador said. "The changes will be profound, but in accordance with established order."

Conservative Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition and the PRI's Jose Antonio Meade acknowledged defeat shortly after polls closed nationwide. The quick count had them around 22 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

Lopez Obrador's supporters began wild celebrations in Mexico City, cruising up and down the central Paseo de la Reforma boulevard honking horns to the tune of "Viva Mexico!" and waving Mexican flags from car windows and moon roofs.

Thousands poured into the sprawling main square known as the Zocalo, where the 64-year-old former mayor of the capital had called on his backers to rally. Many danced to the trills of mariachi music.

Retired teacher Susana Zuniga beamed and said the country was experiencing a moment similar to the Mexican Revolution a century ago.

"The people are fed up. That is what brought us to this," she said.

US President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations: "I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!"

Lopez Obrador said individual and property rights would be guaranteed, promised respect for the autonomy of the Bank of Mexico and said his government will maintain financial and fiscal discipline.

He said contracts obtained under energy reforms passed under President Enrique Pena Nieto will be scrutinised for any corruption or illegality, but otherwise contracts will be honoured.

"There will be no confiscation or expropriation of assets. ... Eradicating corruption will be the principal mission," he said.

Lopez Obrador also spoke of support for migrants and said the most forgotten and humble people of Mexico will be given preference in his government. He said he will seek a relationship of "friendship and respect" with the United States. And rather than the use of force to fight spiraling violence, he will look to fix root causes such as inequality and poverty.

"Peace and tranquility are the fruits of justice," Lopez Obrador said.

Exit polling by Consulta Mitofsky for the Televisa network forecast gubernatorial wins for allies of Lopez Obrador's Morena party in at least four of eight state races on the ballot plus for the head of government in Mexico City. The central state of Guanajuato was expected to go to a candidate of the conservative National Action Party.

Mitofsky predicted Morena allies would take between 56 and 70 seats in the 128-member Senate and between 256 and 291 spots in the 500-seat lower house.

MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) — Vladimir Putin cruised to victory in Russia’s presidential election On Sunday, giving him another six years in power as Moscow’s relations with the West plunge to new Cold War lows.

Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, won more than 75 per cent of the vote according to preliminary results, but the opposition cried foul.

It reported ballot stuffing and other cases of alleged fraud as the Kremlin pushed for high turnout to give greater legitimacy to Putin’s historic fourth term.

The Russian strongman ran against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.

“I see in this (result) the confidence and hope of our people,” Putin said in an address to crowds of supporters on a square next to the Kremlin after exit polls put him on track for a resounding victory.

“Our thoughts will turn to the future of our great country and the future of our children,” said the man who is already Russia’s longest-serving leader since Stalin.