Its very typical of Cristiano Ronaldo to upstage others in the footballing arena. Although he didnt manage to steal the thunder of a World Cup semi-final tonight, his move from Real Madrid to Juventus did offer an interesting sub-plot to the events in St Petersburg.
Ronaldos departure offered up an obvious question: what next for Real? Who could possibly fill the boots of their greatest ever goalscorer?
Watching France go toe-to-toe with Belgium, the match presented two obvious answers: Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappe. Both were exceptional – the live wires of their respective sides, charged with creating, dribbling, harrying and threatening.
Although Mbappe won the occasion, of the two Chelseas Hazard appears the more likely, having recently told beIN Sports: “The Madrid shirt is special with or without him [Zidane] at the club and they are a club who make you dream. Im doing well in blue, so my future does not bother me.” Watch this space.
Set pieces are crucial at this World Cup
For all the exciting world-class attacking talent on display, it took a simple corner to provide the games winning moment.
Antoine Griezmanns inswinging corner into the near post saw Samuel Umtiti out-jump Marouane Fellaini to flick it past the outstanding Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Centre-back Samuel Umtiti provided the vital goal from a straightforward corner (Source: Getty)
In such a tight and important game, set pieces can make all the difference. England have been lauded for their inventive, accurate dead ball routines and France showed their value once again tonight.
Overall, 30 per cent of the tournaments goals have come on free-kicks and corners. England will be hoping to continue their prevalance tomorrow in Moscow.
Deschamps has solved the French conundrum
France coach Didier Deschamps came into the competition with a selection headache – how to fit so much talent into one workable line-up?
The 1998 World Cup-winning captain has drawn on his own personal experience to solve it, favouring discipline, shape, solidity and pragmatism over free-flowing attacking.
Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi has summed up the team spirit and hard-working attitude, operating from a nominal left-sided role, but running tirelessly for his side.
Each and every one of the France side was impressive in shutting down their talented Belgian opponents, with Mbappe, Griezmann and Olivier Giroud leading from the front and Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante brilliant behind them.
Roberto Martinez deserves to shed his reputation
Roberto Martinez showed why Belgium placed their faith in him (Source: Getty)
His “golden generation” may have fallen, but Belgium manager Roberto Martinez deserves credit for his work with the Red Devils.
Martinez has a strange reputation in England following a less and inspiring spell at Everton, but he has showed his worth in Russia, chopping and changing throughout the tournament to spring surprise after surprise on his opponents.
The suspension of Thomas Meunier for the semi-final posed a difficult puzzle, which he did his best to solve using Nacer Chadli.
It didnt bring the result hed have liked, but he has displayed why he was appointed in making tactical shifts to get past Japan and Brazil in previous rounds.