Solid, together, Mbappé … five reasons why France are in World Cup final | David Hytner

France’s tactics in the 1-0 semi-final win against Belgium did not draw universal approval. “They have played anti-football,” Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium goalkeeper, said. “They defended in their own half the entire time. They’ve done that all tournament and it’s a shame. I have not yet experienced that an opposing striker plays so far from goal.” But how France defended in their own half and not for the first time, either. Their progress to the final has been built on the sturdiest of foundations, on organisation and discipline, and one thing has become clear – once you fall behind to this team you have a serious problem. The centre-back Raphaël Varane was extraordinary against Belgium and he and his partner, Samuel Umtiti, have deserved the plaudits they have received throughout the tournament. They are a physically imposing pair who suffocate the supply lines. Belgium had a lot of the game but what did they actually create? With N’Golo Kanté able to play either side of Paul Pogba, there is high-grade protection but this is a team who defend from the front. Against Belgium it was noticeable how Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud pressed the deeper-sitting…
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