This after a single goal gave them a win over a disappointing Belgium in a scrappy match unlike all those the two teams had played so far in the competition.
Belgium’s rearranged set-up failed – not necessarily because of the tactics, but because the normally reliable Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele were quite pathetic, while Romelu Lukaku is probably off to see SpecSavers to work out why he can’t see and react to a ball coming right at him.
France were not all that convincing either but did enough to deserve to win.
France played well in a tough draw and are peaking at the right time, as shown by their 2-0 triumph over Uruguay and the four goals against Argentina
Belgium should have had too many big guns for them but apart from the first 30 minutes when they bossed the game they seemed to run out of steam in the midfield, where all games are won or lost.
There were no goals in the first half, the highlight of which was the super shot by Toby Alderweireld, brilliantly saved by his Spurs team mate Hugo Lloris in the French goals.
At the other end Thibaut Courtois luckily saved one off his trailing leg after Benjamin Pavard was put through.
Romelu Lukaku was not anticipating the balls put through to him – especially just before the break when De Bruyne send in a super cross that he simply was not ready for.
An even half, a wary one and typically tight as could be expected with what was at stake
Lukaku was on the end of a great cross just after the break but headed over.
France were not so generous after Olivier turned in the box and his shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany.
From the resultant corner Samuel Umtiti outjumped a sluggish Marouane Fellaini and banged the ball home via a firm forehead.
The rest was cat and mouse stuff, with Antoine Griezmann doing everything to slow down the game and hold the ball, while Eden Hazard was equally determined to move the ball forward.
De Bruyne unusually gave away too many passes as Belgium’s midfield become sloppy.
The injection of Dries Mertens did up the tempo but France simply parked the bus and denied any Belgian attack; in fact they could have had two or three more near the close in numerous counter attacks as the reds pushed forward.
While French fans were elated at the final whistle, there were probably plenty of smiles from the English and Croatian camps, who after witnessing this match must have raised hopes for the final.
France, like Belgium, had looked tired and could be there for the taking.