France is back in the World Cup final for the first time since Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in 2006.
Twelve years after one of soccer’s most infamous moments, Samuel Umtiti used his head to score from a corner kick in the 51st minute and earn France a 1-0 victory over Belgium on Tuesday in the first of the all-European semifinals.
The French danced on the field after the final whistle and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 but had been hoping to eliminate his native country as Belgium’s assistant coach.
France’s fans sang in the stands long past the end of the match, surrounded by yellow-clad security.
They certainly hope to keep the party going on Sunday in the final in Moscow. France will face either Croatia or England, who play Wednesday at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital.
“Vive la France! Vive la Republique!” France forward Antoine Griezmann shouted during the post-match celebrations.
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France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to its first major final. Belgium reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but has yet to fulfill its lofty expectations.
The world now gets to see France’s luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.
In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France took the lead from a corner. Griezmann curled in the ball from the right and Umtiti got in front of tall Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini to knock in his header at the near post.
“It’s me that scored,” Umtiti said, “but we all delivered a big game.”
Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.
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