Of the 158 goals scored so far at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 67 of them have come from set pieces. The latest came off an Antoine Griezmann corner which was converted by Samuel Umtiti in the 51st minute of Tuesday's semifinal, lifting France to a 1-0 victory over Belgium.
The victory gives France its third-ever berth at a World Cup Final, which have all come since 1998. Les Bleus won the World Cup as hosts that year before losing to Italy in the 2006 Final in Germany.
For Belgium, the semifinal jinx continues as it dropped its second-ever appearance in the final four. Belgium was beaten by eventual champions Argentina in the 1986 semifinals.
It was a difficult loss for Belgium, who monopolized possession for most of the match. Yet it could not get star striker Romelu Lukaku, who had four goals in the tournament, into the mix which left much to be desired about the pressure despite Eden Hazard constantly weaving his way brilliantly through the French defense.
It was pressure that France wasn't too bothered in dealing with considering it constantly punched back on the counterattack thanks to the likes of Griezmann and the speedy 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe.
Yet France had to deal with a pair of Eden Hazard chances that made Belgium's early attacking intentions prevalent. A 15th-minute shot rolled wide of Hugo Lloris' reach and goal before a scorching right-footed effort in the 19th minute was deflected just above the crossbar:
Hazard AGAIN with a big chance! pic.twitter.com/ODeKm1VYTY— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 10, 2018
Belgium came close again in the 22nd minute following off a corner that fell to the feet of Toby Alderweireld. With his back turned to goal, the defender sent a left-footed shot toward Hugo Lloris' right post but the veteran French keeper was able to get his fingers on it and push it wide.
France had some glorious chances of its own, though. Mbappe managed to play a ball into Giroud in the Belgian box only for the central striker to whiff his chance and just moments later, five minutes from halftime, Benjamin Pavard was played in on the right side of the box only for his low, right-footed shot was saved by the outstretched foot of Thibaut Courtois:
Pavard gets behind the line on a nice pass from Mbappé, but Courtois is up to the test! pic.twitter.com/21sNZzp9nO— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 10, 2018
Les Bleus carried that momentum into the second half as the World Cup of set pieces continued with Umtiti rising above Marouane Fellaini to place his header into the back of the Belgian net in the 51st minute:
SAMUEL UMTITI!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 10, 2018
The center back heads home the corner to give France the 1-0 lead. 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/Y5MtXUpvDg
Giroud had a golden chance for France's second blocked just five minutes later, which proved to be the side's last notable chance until stoppage time when a scrambling Belgium was left open for multiple counters that the French were unable to capitalize on.
In the meantime, Fellaini attempted to make up for his defensive miss on Umtiti with a dangerous header in the French box toward Lloris' goal in the 65th minute. However, the chance fizzed wide.
Axel Witsel finally forced Lloris to make his second save of the match in the 81st minute with a strong, low shot from outside the box as Belgium ramped up the pressure in the final 10 minutes.
But France would park the bus, ensuring that any sort of Belgian pressure would be met by a wave of blue jerseys. It was good enough to keep Lloris' goal safe and punch France's ticket to Moscow.