First, let's cover the suspensions. France advanced to the semifinals after beating Uruguay 2-0 in the quarterfinals, while Belgium advanced to the semifinals after ousting Brazil 2-1 in the quarterfinals. He'll rejoin the French midfield with NGolo Kante and Paul Pogba, who have been the best unit in the tournament.
Belgium faced a heart-stopping moment of uncertainty in the first knockout round against Japan, when Martinez's decision to rest players in their final group match against England nearly backfired spectacularly.
The precocious talent of the young Hazard did not pass unnoticed at Clairefontaine, the France Football Federation's elite forming school, and overtures were made to try and persuade him to represent his adopted country. Two years after losing the Euro 2016 at home, France is now one win away from its second World Cup title as it seeks redemption at the highest of stages.
For the die-hard France fans, there's one twist that makes this semifinal convincing.
In an interesting omen, Umtiti's goal was the third scored by a French defender at this World Cup.
That was as far as Belgium got as France put up a football equivalent of a brick wall at the back to seal their place in Sunday's final.
"I feel that the most important aspect we worked on was the notion of being a team".
Along with the French and Gabonese presidents and the king and queen of Belgium, there was rock "n" roll royalty watching the game. They needed a late own goal in their opening match against Australia, edged past Peru 1-0 in their second, then played out a boring goalless draw with Denmark. "It's going to be a man's match and we will have to step up". Their only World Cup triumph came in 1998. "It is an opportunity in our careers and we have to grab it with both hands". No player in either side has taken more shots on target for either side than this duo (both on five), while Eden Hazard is the only player to take more touches in the opponents' penalty areas. Beyond the geographical and linguistic ties, many of these players also know each other intimately from the Premier League.
This is the 74th meeting between these teams, but it's mostly been through friendlies between neighboring nations. There was less at stake the last time these 2 went head-to-head at the World Cup, a 4-2 victory for France in the 3rd place match in 1986.