France Defeats Belgium to Reach World Cup Final

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) – France advanced to the World Cup final for the first time since 2006 with a 1-0 win over Belgium on Tuesday.

Samuel Umititi scored the only goal in the semifinal with a header in the 51st minute at the St. Petersburg stadium in Russia.

“We worked really hard together, and it’s me that scored but we all delivered a big game,” Umtiti said afterwards. His live TV interview was interrupted by teammate Antoine Griezmann, who saluted to the camera and said: “Vive la France! Vive la Republique!”

Paris erupted in firecrackers, flares and shouts and tears of joy after the game went final.

Red smoke rose up from flares fired by fans on the Right Bank esplanade outside City Hall, where crowds watched a broadcast of the 1-0 victory over Belgium on huge screens Tuesday night.

Fans poured onto streets around the city, from the chic Champs-Elysees to working-class neighborhoods on the edge of town. Firecrackers popped in quick succession, punctuated by car horns and football chants and “On est en finale!” or “we’re in the final!”

Some streets were closed to car traffic to accommodate fans. Police vans lined the busiest areas in a city still on guard after extremist attacks.

France will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between England and Croatia in the World Cup decider in Moscow on Sunday. The French public, celebrities and politicians have rallied around the national team as it advanced.

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