Midfielder Paul Pogba has dedicated France’s World Cup semi-final win over Belgium to the young footballers rescued from flooded caves after an 18-day ordeal in Thailand.
Samuel Umtiti’s second-half goal in St Petersburg was enough to get Les Bleus past Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils and into Sunday’s Moscow final against either England or Croatia.
The players were quick to express their emotion at the result on social media after the full-time whistle.
Pogba posted a picture on Instagram of the 12 boys, aged between 11 and 17, who entered the Tham Luang cave system in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach on June 23 and became trapped when heavy rain cut off their way out.
The Manchester United man also indicated there was still work to do for Didier Deschamps’ side in Russia, saying of Tuesday night’s victory: “It’s great but it’s not finished.”
Forward Kylian Mbappe posted some action pictures from the match and said “WHAT A DREAM”.
Defender Raphael Varane simply posted a picture of himself celebrating alongside the words: “En finale.”
Fellow defender Lucas Hernandez was similarly joyous, saying simply: “Direction … LA FINALLLLLLLEEE !!”
He wrote on Twitter: “France deserved it … Varane and Umtiti outstanding defenders, Mbappe the star of the World Cu, Belgium bottled it once again in a big tournament… big guy Courthois beaten at his near post… I think little Pickford would have saved it…”
Belgium defender Thomas Meunier gave credit to France and turned his attention to Saturday’s play-off clash. His tweet read: “Hats off to @equipedefrance for qualification. Go to the end now! As for us, we still have a game! Write the history of Belgian football with a magnificent 3rd place! Saturday will be #REDTOGETHER!”
Alex Witsel is also keen for Roberto Martinez’s side to claim third place and the midfielder paid tribute to supporters who made the trip, sentiments echoed by winger Yannick Carrasco and striker Michy Batshuayi.