Now we’re finally in the business end of the World Cup in Russia, with the Semi Finals upon us today, with only 90 minutes separating competing teams from their childhood dreams of playing in a World Cup final, with the added weight of expectations of a whole nation upon their shoulders. So, who will step up and seize the opportunity when France face-off against Belgium in the first Semi Final?
France v Belgium have a very equal outcome percentage of wins, draws and losses in their previous six meetings, with two wins each and two draws, dating back to the World Cup in 1986, when France beat Belgium 4-2 after extra time. However, that was 32 years ago, and today’s game is a whole different match, but today’s teams are still very evenly matched, suggesting a game that could go either way, but hopefully not to extra time and penalties. The game will kick-off at 19:00pm (GMT) or 20:00pm (CEST) in St. Petersburg and it’s arguably the pick of the Semi Final contests, with the two best teams in the World Cup playing against each other.
France are still without Djibril Sidibe who has an injury, but Benjamin Pavard is preferred at right back after an impressive tournament. Blaise Matuidi is back from suspension and could replace 23-year old Corentin Tolisso on the left of midfield, but France manager Didier Deschamps is unlikely to make any big changes from the side that beat Uruguay 2-0. France will line up in their usual formation of 4-2-3-1, with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann in the attacking midfield three, behind Olivier Giroud. Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti continue to make up the central defence, with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba in central midfield.
Belgium are high on confidence after knocking out Brazil in the last round, with manager Roberto Martinez only with one player missing through suspension, Thomas Meunier, who plays at right back. Against Brazil, Belgium fielded a 4-3-3 formation and are sure to do the same today, with Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel and either Nacer Chadli or Moussa Dembele coming into midfield. That is, unless Kevin De Bruyne goes back into midfield, after playing through the middle as a striker against Brazil. Romelu Lukaku may play in the middle, or him and De Bruyne may intermittently switch sides from the right, with Eden Hazard playing down the left flank in attack.
Captain Vincent Kompany looks set to continue in the heart of the defence for Belgium, alongside Toby Alderweireld, with Jan Vertonghen playing at left back, but it’s the missing Meunier which could expose a defensive frailty against the French. Roberto Martinez has no replacement right fullback at hand, and may have to even play Nacer Chadli as a right back, which would be strange for such an attacking player.
This will be a close match, however, based on recent performances, we just feel that Belgium will progress at the expense of Le Bleus today.
Match Prediction: France v Belgium 1-2 or Belgium to Qualify
Story by The Narrator
Featured Photo Credit: FIFA.com