France book spot in Football World Cup final with clinical win against Belgium

Welcome to 1 NEWS NOW's live coverage of the 2018 Football World Cup from Russia.

8:05am

That'll be all for our World Cup coverage today. We'll be back tomorrow for the second semi-final, with England and Croatia meeting to decide who'll face France in Moscow for the Jules Rimmet trophy on Monday.

7:58am

What a performance from France, but spare a thought for Belgium - the tournament's top scorers couldn't find the back of the net today, and will now play off for third place against the loser of tomorrow's second semi-final, between England and Croatia.

7:54am: FULLTIME - France 1 Belgium 0

Chance for France! Belgium caught out with everyone forward. Tolisso has a chance but Courtois makes a brilliant save low to his left. Corner for France as Mbappe and Pogba look to hold it in the corner.

That'll be it though! France are the first side to book their place at the 2018 Football World Cup final!

7:52am: 90+4 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

De Bruyne crosses from the right but France clear and look for the counter. Vertonghen gives away a foul on Mbappe. Less than two minutes to play.

7:50am: 90+2 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Belgium bring on Michy Batshuayi, six minutes of injury time. Free kick for France, Mbappe and Griezmann stand over it and they look to hold possession. De Bruyne gives away a foul as France continue to run the clock down.

7:46am: 89 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Belgium throwing everything forward now. Carrasco and Hazard combine down the left and win a free kick after Kante brings down the Belgium skipper. De Bruyne stands over the dead ball, a lot of bodies for him to aim at. N'Zonzi clears the ball but there's a scramble before Mbappe clears.

The ball drops again to De Bruyne, who crosses for Lukaku, but the striker can't get a touch. Goal kick France.

7:39am: 82 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Chance for Belgium! Quick feet from Hazard sees the ball drop at the feet of Witsel, who hammers a shot straight at Lloris, but the France captain reads it well and punches clear.

7:36am: 79 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Mbappe wins a free kick wide on the right in the Belgium half. Griezmann again stands over it, he finds the head of Pogba, but the header is way over the bar.

7:28am: 71 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Belgium with over 50 per cent of possession so far, but France are playing their game plan to perfection. Alderweireld runs down the right, but Giroud tracks back to end the Belgian threat.

7:23am: 66 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Dries Mertens has come on as a sub for Dembele, and straight away could prove to be the difference maker. He finds Fellaini with a cross from the right, but the header is over the bar.

7:20am: 64 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Corner for Belgium, Chadli takes, France clear and try to counter. Hazard brings down Matuidi and is booked.

7:14am: 57 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

France slicing Belgium to bits! Matuidi finds Mbappe in the box, before a back heel puts Giroud clean through on goal. His shot is saved by the oncoming Courtois though. Belgium in real danger now.

7:12am: 55 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

Matuidi is bought down on the edge of the area, giving France another free kick. Griezmann stands over it. He curls his ball in, but Kompany clears.

7:08am: 51 mins - France 1 Belgium 0

GOAL!!! France open the scoring! Les Bleus have a corner, Griezmann stands over it. He takes and finds the head of Umtiti who fires it home! France break the deadlock and now Belgium have it all to do for a spot in the final.

7:02am: 46 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Belgium get the game restarted, and straight away De Bruyne bursts into the France area. Corner to Belgium, they play it short but Kante intercepts.

7:01am

Both sides back out on the pitch. What will this second half bring? Could we be heading to extra time?

6:46am: HALFTIME - France 0 Belgium 0

Scoreless at the break. Belgium started the better of the two sides, but France have come roaring back in the latter stages of the first half. We'll be back shortly for the second spell of this first 2018 Football World Cup semi-finals.

6:44am: 44 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Free kick for France right on the edge of the area, with Pogba bought down. Griezmann will take it, does he cross or shoot? He shoots, but straight into the wall.

6:40am: 40 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

What a save from Courtois in goal! Pavard breaks down the right before getting his shot away, but the Belgium keeper reaches out to prevent the goal. France have come to life late in this first half.

6:34am: 34 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Huge chance for the French! A ball over the top finds Mbappe in space on the right, he passes back inside to Giroud, but he can't connect properly with the shot. Goal kick for Belgium.

6:31am: 31 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Free kick for France in the Belgium half. Griezmann stands over it. He plays it wide to Pavard, who swings in a cross - Giroud meets it but the header is off target.

6:25am: 25 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

France win their first corner after Hernandez's shot is blocked. Griezmann takes, but Fellaini meets the ball and clears with a header.

6:22am: 22 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Another Belgium corner. Chadli takes and the first header is missed by Giroud. The ball drops to Alderweireld, who shoots but Lloris produces a world-class save in goal! Another corner for Belgium, but Kompany gives away a free kick against Pogba.

6:19am: 19 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Hazard fires a shot from close range, but Varane does brilliantly to block the shot and save a certain goal. Corner for Belgium. Chadli takes, but Umtiti clears.

6:16am: 16 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

De Bruyne finds Hazard in the box with a delicate through ball. The winger fires his shot left-footed, but it just shapes wide of the back post. France run down the other end where Matuidi claims a corner, but the referee says goal kick.

6:11am: 11 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

First real chance for France now. A ball over the top from Mbappe has Giroud up against Vertonghen, he can't quite control it though. Belgium clear the danger.

6:07am: 7 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Corner for Belgium. Chadli to take - but the ball's missed everyone and goes out for a goal kick. France have seen very little of possession so far.

6:03am: 3 mins - France 0 Belgium 0

Belgium surge forward through Hazard down the left, finding Vertonghen back inside him. The defender moves the ball in to De Bruyne who finds Chadli. De Bruyne crosses in, but there's no one there to meet it.

6:00am: KICKOFF - France 0 Belgium 0

We're away, France get the first semi-final going.

5:40am

Here are the confirmed starting sides for today's clash:

France (4-3-3): 1. Hugo Lloris (gk & c), 2. Benjamin Pavard, 4. Raphael Varane 5. Samuel Umtiti, 21. Lucas Hernandez, 13. N'Golo Kanté, 6. Paul Pogba, 10. Kylian Mbappe 7. Antoine Griezmann, 14. Blaise Matuidi, 9. Olivier Giroud.

Belgium (3-4-1-2): 1. Thibaut Courtois, 2. Toby Alderweireld, 4. Vincent Kompany, 5. Jan Vertonghen, 6. Axel Witsel, 22. Nacer Chadli, 19. Mousa Dembélé, 8. Marouane Fellaini, 7. Kevin De Bruyne, 9. Romelu Lukaku, 10. Eden Hazard (c).

5:30am

Here we are, the first of our 2018 semi-finals.

For Belgium, a chance at their first ever World Cup final waits, while France are wanting their first title since 1998.

We'll have final starting XIs for you shortly.

France celebrate after reaching the Football World Cup final
France celebrate after reaching the Football World Cup final Source: Associated Press


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Horror Manchester City defensive blunders leads to shock Champions League defeat by Lyon

If Manchester City wants to finally win a first Champions League title, they will have to start taking the competition a bit more seriously — on and off the field.

Surrounded by swathes of empty seats in the Etihad Stadium, City's players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign today.

Banned from the touchline and unable to communicate with the bench, City manager Pep Guardiola did fill one seat in the stands and he saw his Premier League champions easily picked apart by the French visitors.

"We felt under threat every time we lost the ball and sometimes that brings the confidence a little bit lower," said City assistant manager Mikel Arteta, who was in charge on the bench in Guardiola's absence.

Errors by midfielder Fernandinho led to both Lyon goals, typifying how careless City was against a team that finished third in the French league last season and was even held to a draw at the weekend by 10-man Caen.

When a pass by the Brazilian midfielder was intercepted around the halfway line, Lyon charged forward.

Nabil Fekir sent in a cross from the left that evaded Fabian Delph's swinging legs, allowing Maxwel Cornet to slot it home in the 26th minute.

Delph held his head in his hands as the consequences of his mistake became clear.

City's troubles deepened when Fernandinho was caught in possession again. Memphis Depay set Fekir on a run and the forward doubled Lyon's lead in the 43rd by striking through the legs of John Stones.

"It was a difficult game," said Depay, who struggled to make an impact at Manchester United before leaving after two seasons in 2017.

"But when we had the ball we tried to play and when we won the ball we tried to counterattack."

Perhaps the only reason for City to feel aggrieved in the first half was Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty when he was tripped by former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva just before Depay scored.

"To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating," Stones said.

"We came in at halftime a bit deflated I think. But we picked ourselves up and we came out second half fighting and played a better second half."

But the improvement wasn't sufficient.

City pulled one back in the 67th when Bernardo Silva scored from substitute Leroy Sane's cutback.

But the attacking threat was too patchy from a City side that won the Premier League with a record 100 points only four months ago, and are widely seen as one of the big favorites in this season's Champions League.

"I suffered as I was scared they'd score a second goal," Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said.

"We would have taken 2-2 before the match but given the way the game went we'd have been disappointed not to leave with the three points."


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Paul Pogba curls in stunning goal, scores a double in Manchester United's Champions League win

Game-winning displays like Paul Pogba's in a 3-0 victory for Manchester United over Young Boys should help to improve his relations with coach Jose Mourinho.

Pogba scored twice late in the first half today to get United off to a smooth start in the Champions League against the group-stage newcomer.

A curling shot in the 35th minute and an assured penalty in the 44th — after a trademark slow-trot approach — showed Pogba at his most elegant.

Pogba's form cheered Mourinho on the touchline after an uneasy early season between them since the team's signature player returned from winning the World Cup with France.

United went three goals up in the 66th when Pogba surged through the midfield and teed up Anthony Martial, who also had tense pre-season exchanges with Mourinho. Martial's shot took a deflection off defender Mohamed Ali Camara.

Camara's eventful evening included testing David De Gea with an early long-range strike, hitting a post with a second-half shot from a corner, and being beaten by Pogba's quick feet that created space to score the opening goal.

The penalty was awarded for a handball awarded against Young Boys defender Kevin Mbabu for blocking Luke Shaw's cross.

The result dispelled Mourinho's doubts expressed to UEFA this month about playing Champions League games on artificial turf.

Still, Mourinho said the surface should not be an excuse for his players who did have uneasy moments before Pogba stepped up.

Making his United debut, 19-year-old right-back Diogo Dalot slipped on the plastic pitch to give winger Christian Fassnacht a shooting chance that was blocked.

A loser on its two previous Champions League games in Switzerland, both at Basel, United next welcomes Valencia to Old Trafford on October 2.

Also in Group H, Pogba's former team Juventus won 2-0 at Valencia despite a first-half red card for Cristiano Ronaldo, the former United star.


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Watch as hysterical Cristiano Ronaldo reduced to tears after sending off in Juventus' Champions League win

Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the missing piece in Juventus' bid to win the Champions League.

But his first match in the competition for his new club lasted less than half an hour today as he was sent off after appearing to pull at an opponent's hair.

Juventus still went on to win 2-0 at Valencia, thanks to two penalties.

It was Ronaldo's first red card in 154 Champions League games, and the decision means he could miss a return to Old Trafford when Juventus plays Manchester United next month if gets at least a two-match ban.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted it shouldn't have been a red card, and lamented the fact that video technology has yet to be introduced into the Champions League, as it has been in Serie A. VAR was also used at the World Cup in Russia this year.

"I'll only say that in this sort of occasion VAR would help," Allegri said.

"It's disappointing because now we'll lose him for a few games and instead if there had been VAR it would have been seen that it wasn't a sending-off offence."

Ronaldo was dismissed in the 29th minute after tangling with Jeison Murillo.

After Murillo went down inside the area, the Portugal forward gestured for his opponent to get up, then put his hand on the Valencia defender's head and appeared to tug his hair.

Referee Felix Brych showed Ronaldo a straight red card after discussing with his assistant behind the goal.

Ronaldo looked baffled and kept professing his innocence and was clearly distraught as he left the pitch in tears, still shaking his head.

"He was upset and he needs time to calm down," Allegri said.

"He needs to rise above it and focus on Sunday, even if these things leave a bitter taste in the mouth."

Even Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia attempted to comfort Ronaldo as he walked off the pitch.

"I didn't see the contact, I was affected by his tears. He was saying he didn't do anything," Marcelino said. "I spoke with him but I won't say what I told him."

Juventus has won Europe's premier club competition twice but the last time was in 1996.

It has lost five finals since then and hoped that signing Ronaldo, who has won the competition five times, it could go one step further.

The Bianconeri have won the Serie A title for the last seven seasons — and the league and Italian Cup double for the past four — but have struggled to transfer that domestic supremacy to the European stage, although they have reached the final twice in the past four editions.

Despite playing more than an hour with 10 men at Valencia, Juventus eased to victory.


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Former Premier League striker rejects offer to join rebuilding Wellington Phoenix

The Wellington Phoenix are back to recruiting players after their latest attempt to sign another former Premier League player fell through.

The Kiwi club was in talks with veteran Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins after he had been frozen out by his Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua following a serious injury in April.

But Martins has decided to focus on recovery from his torn hamstring instead of signing with a new team.

"I've spoken with Obafemi and he just wants to continue to rehabilitate from his injury in the UK for the time being," his agent Ante Alilovic told SBS.

"He's told me he wants to hold off until January (to make a decision on his future).

"I don't think the A-League is a serious option in terms of what he can earn elsewhere. He won't be coming to Australia and I think he sees his future remaining in China."

Martins played five seasons for Inter Milan from 2001-2006 before moving to the Premier League, making 88 appearances in three years for Newcastle United. More recently, Martins has played in Major League Soccer before joining Shanghai.

It's a blow for the Wellington club who received a green light from Football Federation Australia to pursue the 33-year-old with a marquee contract, meaning they would contribute from their own funds to help the Phoenix get his signature on the dotted line.

It marks the second failed attempt to find a marquee player after reported negotiations between former Chelsea star Michael Essien and Phoenix broke down prior to their pursuit of Martins.

Obafemi Martins celebrates a goal for Newcastle United with Steven Taylor.
Obafemi Martins celebrates a goal for Newcastle United with Steven Taylor. Source: Getty


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