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Video: Lloris blunder gives Croatia life

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Hugo Lloris has gifted Croatia their second goal of the final, and perhaps Mario Mandzukic and Co. can find their way back into the match.

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The Juventus forward pulled the scoreline to 4-2 after Lloris failed to clear his line and passed the ball off Mandzukic and into the France goal in the 69th minute.

The goal comes after Mandzukic was charged with an own goal in the first half, which had given France their initial 1-0 lead.

France edge past Belgium to reach World Cup final

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Two years to the day after losing in the final of the 2016 European Championship on home soil, France booked their place in the final of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Belgium, narrowly besting their northern neighbors in a exciting, back-and-forth affair at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Samuel Umtiti scored the game’s only goal, though 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe will undoubtedly be remembered as the star of 2018’s first semifinal for his constant threat on the counter-attack, and one moment of individual flair and brilliance against a packed-in Belgian defense.

Hugo Lloris began the battle of the goalkeepers when he denied one of four current of former Tottenham Hotspur teammates-turned-foe, thwarting the game’s first clear-cut scoring chance in the 22nd minute. Toby Alderweireld corralled the ball in the box after Nacer Chadli‘s corner kick near the penalty spot. Alderweireld turned on the ball and fired through a sea of bodies toward Lloris’ right-hand post, but the French captain went full-stretch to make a stunning save.

Lloris’ opposite number and London rival, Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, made a save nearly as impressive six minute before halftime, denying Benjamin Pavard who made a long, underlapping run into the penalty area and fired toward the far post from a tight angle with a reactive kick-save.

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France needed just six second-half minutes to find the breakthrough, and it came as so many goals have done during this tournament: via a set piece (WATCH HERE). 69 of this World Cup’s 158 goals have been scored from set pieces. Antoine Griezmann served it up to the near post, where Marouane Fellaini was matched up against Umtiti, but it was the Barcelona defender who won the battle for positioning and rose highest to head past Courtois.

Lloris was forced to come up big again in the 81st minute, when Axel Witsel unloaded a low, swerving drive toward his left-hand post. Hit from all of 25 yards out, Witsel’s shot violently moved left to right, but Lloris got two hands behind it and punched it away to safety.

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France will now wait 24 hours to learn who they’ll face in Sunday’s final in Moscow. England are favorites against Croatia, but that has meant very little — as in, next to nothing — during this tournament.

Why they’ll win the World Cup: France

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First of all, relax — This is part of a four-post series making the case for each of four World Cup semifinalists in their respective bids to win the 2018 edition of the tournament.

That said, let’s talk about why France will be lifting the World Cup trophy on July 15 in Moscow.

[ RECAP: Belgium ousts Brazil ]

Why France will win the tournament: Following a 2-0 defeat of Uruguay in Friday’s quarterfinal, manager Didier Deschamps noted that Les Bleus relative inexperience peeks out at times.

That might be helping France, who has built its tournament acumen back up following the embarrassment of 2010 in South Africa. France lost to eventual champions Spain at EURO 2012, then again fell to a champion when Germany knocked the French out at the quarterfinal stage of the 2014 World Cup.

The French then (mostly) bossed the home EURO 2016 and the final despite losing to Eder‘s extra time tally in setting the stage for this summer in Russia.

France has survived legacy-desperate Lionel Messi and Argentina (just, really) and a feisty Uruguay despite still waiting to get consistent star turns from Samuel Umtiti and Hugo Lloris (though the backstop made a magnificent save late in the first half Friday versus the South American side.

Olivier Giroud, a man known for big goals, also is still waiting to break onto the score sheet. France has thrived through a kid (Kylian Mbappe), a dominating should-be Ballon d’Or candidate (N'Golo Kante), and two stars attackers doing it loudly (Antoine Griezmann) and quietly (Paul Pogba).

Throw in Raphael Varane, and France has been steady up the middle. If they can get past Belgium, which this post assumes they do thanks to the title, find us a team on the other side of the bracket equipped to punish the French. England? Sweden? Russia?

No, it would come down to Croatia. And right now we’d sign up for that feast of football… and expect Les Bleus to emerge victorious.

Livermore keeps West Brom alive

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  • Baggies stay alive
  • Spurs stay fourth
  • Livermore scores at death

West Bromwich Albion is still alive following a 1-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at the Hawthorns on Saturday.

Jake Livermore cleaned up a goal mouth scramble in the third minute of stoppage time to move West Brom into 19th place.

The Baggies’ hot finish to the season needed all three points to stay alive, and Darren Moore‘s men needed almost every moment to complete their valiant effort to save Premier League status.

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Spurs had three-quarters or more of possession for most of the match, though decent chances were at a premium.

Allan Nyom took a slap to the face from Danny Rose after exchanging shoves in the second half, but only yellow cards came to both.

Hugo Lloris made an incredible save on — you’re going to read this right — Harry Kane when the English striker failed to clear danger over his goal.

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Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Eriksen stars

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  • Goal, assist for Eriksen
  • Kane starts, scores
  • Diouf nabs sixth for Stoke

Christian Eriksen had a goal and an assist as Spurs fended off pesky Stoke City, 2-1, at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Harry Kane started and scored for Tottenham, and Dele Alli also had an assist as the visitors are now level on points with third place Liverpool with a match-in-hand.

Mame Biram Diouf scored for Stoke City, who is four points back of 17th with 27 points.

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Spurs could’ve been 1-0 up when Dele Alli spied Heung-Min Son, but the South Korean’s effort was denied by in-form Jack Butland.

Dele got his assist when he spied Eriksen early in the second half, an inspired pass that was hammered home by the Danish playmaker.

Stoke level through Diouf, who scored a fortunate goal when Hugo Lloris‘ clearance slammed off his torso and into the Spurs goal.

Kane made it all better within minutes, heading Eriksen’s cross into the goal.

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