Didier Deschamps says France will use the hurt of defeat in the 2016 European Championship final to capture the World Cup after booking their place in the showpiece with victory against Belgium.
Deschamps' side triumphed 1-0 in the semi-final in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, when Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header settled the match and sealed his country's third final appearance.
France, champions in 1998 and runners-up 12 years ago, will now face either England or Croatia in Sunday’s final, which takes place at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Two years ago, with the Euros staged in France, they lost 1-0 to Portugal in extra time in the final.
“This is exceptional. I am very happy for my players - we showed character and the right mentality,” said Deschamps, who captained France to World Cup victory on home soil in 1998. “I remember what happened two years ago. We will go into this final to win it, as we have still not gotten over the  final.”
Deschamps is now one match from joining a select band of managers who have won the World Cup as a player and manager. To date, Brazilian Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbeuer are the only men to have achieved the feat.
“I feel very proud for my group. We have been 49 days together,” Deschamps said. “There were a lot of things, a lot of difficult things, the group stage. Everyone can take credit.”
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Although Umtiti notched the winner and was later named man of the match, teammate Kylian Mbappe was arguably the game’s standout performer. The teenager, who does not turn 20 until December, created several chances for his colleagues – Olivier Giroud and Benjamin Pavard could not capitalise – while Mbappe was a threat throughout because of his electric pace.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward was not a part of the France team at the 2016 Euros, but is relishing the opportunity to help lift the current crop to the trophy.
“It is unbelievable. It is the dream of dreams, the dream of the future, everything,” he said. “I don’t have the words. Not even in my wildest dreams, and I am a big dreamer, would I have imagined this. There is still one more step to take, but we are proud of what we have done.”
French president Emmanuel Macron was in attendance in Saint Petersburg and even paid the players a visit afterwards.
“In the changing room, Didier Deschamps was happy. We were all happy, all hugging,” Mbappe said. “President Emmanuel Macron came down to see us. Everyone is with us, we’re all in this together.”
Asked what Macron said, Mbappe replied: “He said he would come back for the final, to see us with the cup.”
Even though he grabbed the deciding goal, Umtiti praised the collective, saying: “A lot of pride. We worked hard ... I scored but we delivered a good match and I’m very proud of everyone. They worked in ‘98 and we worked today. We reached out target to get to the final. I’m very satisfied.”