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Belgium's Courtois blasts France victory as 'shame for football'

Saint Petersburg: Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said his team's defeat by France in the World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday was a "shame for football", criticising Didier Deschamps's side for a defensive style of play.

Centre-back Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header from a corner gave France a 1-0 win, as they defended deep to close it out and reach a third World Cup final.

"It was a frustrating match. France didn't play at all, they defended with 11 players within 40 metres of their goal," Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois told Belgian TV channel RTBF.

"They played on the counter-attack with (Kylian) Mbappe, who is very quick. That's their right. They know when an opponent plays very deep, that's where we have problems.

"The frustration is there because we didn't lose to a team who are better than us, we lost to a team who play nothing, just defend.

"Against Uruguay (in the quarter-finals) they scored with a free-kick and a goalkeeping error. Today, a corner. It's a shame for football that Belgium didn't win today." France, the 1998 champions, will face either England or Croatia in Sunday's final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

Meanwhile, the French national anthem La Marseillaise, chants of "We're in the final" and a cacophony of car horns and fire crackers rang out over Paris as residents of the capital celebrated France's march to the World Cup final.

A crowd of 20,000 gathered to watch Didier Deschamps' team beat Belgium 1-0 in their semi-final in Saint Petersburg last night on a giant screen at Paris' historic Hotel de Ville, or town hall.

With viewing space at a premium every vantage spot was occupied — with fans perched on trees, on top of vans, on dustbins and bus shelters.

Samuel Umtiti's decisive goal in the 51st minute triggered the waving of a sea of tricolor flags as ecstatic supporters — many in the national team's colours — kissed and hugged and danced.

"Vive la France, vive la Republique" shouted Alia and Sacha, two Parisian schoolchildren.

"We are so proud to be French tonight!" Alia explained as fire crackers exploded on the cobblestones.

Motorbikes, cycles, cars, dustbin lorries — they all came to a standstill to join in the celebrations. With France under high security since the November 2015 terror attacks the fan zone at the town hall was policed by over 1,200 members of the security forces.

Fans, who had climbed on top of buses gingerly inching their way through the crowds, were dancing and waving flares and flags, as the bus driver fought a losing battle to get his passengers to their destination on time. "I was 18 years old in 1998, it was one of the most beautiful nights of my life. We'll repeat that this Sunday," said Sebastien.

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