Samuel Umtiti scored the France winner in their 1-0 semi-final defeat of Belgium and is now gunning for World Cup glory
The Barcelona defender headed France to a 1-0 semi-final victory over Belgium in St Petersburg and into Sunday’s showdown with either Croatia or England and a chance to make up for the bitter disappointment of a final defeat by Portugal two years ago.
Asked if he was a good luck charm after reaching that final, he said: “No, I’m not at all a good luck charm – we didn’t win the Euros final, so that’s why it’s close to my heart now to reach this level at the World Cup.
“I hope it’s going to be different this time, I hope we will able to bring the World Cup back to France.”
Manager Didier Deschamps, who led the nation into that tournament, is bidding to become just the third man after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer to win the World Cup as both player and coach, but is refusing to look back to his own triumph as a player in 1998.
He said: “I never, never, never, ever mention my own history. They know it. Some of them were not born, but they have seen pictures.
“That belongs to a lot of French people who lived through it, but not to the young generation. The story is different now, you can’t make comparisons. I can’t talk to them about players from 20 years ago, even from 10 years ago.
“I am here with them today to write a new page in history, the most beautiful page.
“I’m not saying that I’m not proud of what we did all together 20 years ago. It will stay there, nobody will be able to erase that, but you have to live in your times.
“We can’t really look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror. This is not how you are going to move forward.”
Disappointed Belgium boss Roberto Martinez spoke of his pride at what his players had achieved in falling just short of their aim for the tournament.
He said: “The disappointment is huge because the focus of the group was to try to win the tournament. It wasn’t about having a good tournament, it wasn’t about being happy to be in the top four, so it’s a really sad dressing room right now because the opportunity of being in the final was the only focus that we had.
“That makes me proud because we could have easily come to this stage and froze and just not been able to cope with what France have done in the past.
“France were in the final of the Euros – almost they are used to being in these sort of big games, and I thought we coped with that side really well, so I don’t want any of my players to be frustrated, disappointed.”
Martinez admitted Saturday’s third-fourth place play-off game is not one for which it will be easy to prepare, but challenged his players to see it as another opportunity.
He said: “That doesn’t happen too often – the only time that it happened in Belgian football was in 1986 and we finished fourth, so we need to understand that this is an important game.”