The much-fancied France side will take on another highly rated team in this World Cup – Belgium. The display of attacking football promises to be epic and already has football fans salivating.
France dominated their quarterfinal tie against Uruguay, with a convincing 2-0 victory and were never really troubled by the South Americans. France possesses the most talented squad in the tournament and they have real depth in quality. Belgium, however, are not far away as they beat Brazil 2-1 – quite shockingly to book a semi-final place. It is needless to say this is a clash of the Titans.
France usually line up with a 4-2-3-1 while Belgium deploys a 3-4-2-1 but are quite unpredictable with their approach as they lined-up with a 4-3-3 formation against Brazil. Kylian Mbappe is probably France’s most dynamic player with his pace and trickery. Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba are attacking threats that on their day can wreck havoc to the Belgian defence.
Belgium have various attacking threats most notably Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. Along with other supporting casts they are capable of troubling the French defence that in my opinion is a bit shaky.
Both teams are pretty even and I expect a highly competitive game – filled with goals. I predict a 2-2 draw then a penalty shootout that I believe France will win.
France have won all three of the previous meetings at major tournaments, including two World Cup encounters.
The French won 3-1 in the first round of the 1938 World Cup, which they hosted, and 4-2 after extra time in the third-place play-off in 1986. The latter game in Puebla, Mexico, is the most recent competitive match between the sides.
France also beat Belgium 5-0 in the group stage of the European Championship in 1984, with Michel Platini scoring a hat-trick in Nantes.
Belgium are unbeaten in the last three friendly games (W1, D2), winning the most recent encounter 4-3 in June 2015. Marouane Fellaini scored twice in that game as the Belgians raced into a three-goal lead inside 50 minutes.
This will be the 74th match between the sides. Belgium have claimed 30 wins, with 24 victories for France and 19 draws.
This will be France’s sixth World Cup semi-final. They were beaten in their first three (in 1958, 1982 and 1986), but have won the last two (1998 and 2006).
Excluding shootouts, France have lost just one of their last 13 knockout games at the World Cup (W10, D2). That defeat was their 1-0 loss to Germany in the quarter-finals in 2014.
Antoine Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last six knockout matches at the World Cup and European Championship.
Belgium’s only previous World Cup semi-final ended in a 2-0 defeat to eventual winners Argentina in 1986. Diego Maradona scored both goals.
They also lost their only European Championship semi-final, losing 2-1 to West Germany on home soil in Antwerp in 1972. Gerd Muller scored twice for the Germans, with Odilon Polleunis replying for the Belgians.
Belgium did reach the final of the European Championship in 1980 (again losing to West Germany), but they did not contest a semi-final, instead advancing directly after winning their group.
The Belgians are unbeaten in their last 24 games (W19, D5) and have won their last seven matches.
Belgium’s haul of 14 goals from their first five World Cup games is the most at this stage since Brazil in 2002 (15 goals prior to the semi-finals).
They have had nine different goalscorers in Russia (excluding own goals). The only teams to have had more at a World Cup are Italy (2006) and France (1982) with 10 each.
Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 games for Belgium (17 goals, 3 assists).
SOURCE: BBC SPORT
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