Time: 11:30(IST) Place: Saint Petersburg Stadium Live Telecast: Sony Select 1[HD]
European giant neighbours France and Belgium will battle it out in first Semi-final of FIFA World Cup 2018 at Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday evening for the France vs Belgium clash.
Both Nations are equally strong when it comes to status and positional strength on all over the pitch. Both were favorites to reach this stage with plenty of world class players in squad. Names of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyene, Jordan Lukaku featuring against likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba. This is surely going to be mouth watering individual clashes on pitch for the fans.
And then, there was four…
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 7, 2018
However the highlight will be Thierry Henry who has won World Cup with France in 1998 but now assisting Belgium manager Roberto Martinez as his assistant manager role and we are all eagerly waiting to see his reaction at end of the France vs Belgium game.
The 🇧🇪@BelRedDevils assistant coach is the subject of our latest Visual Story 🖼️⚽️
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 9, 2018
France have upper hand over their opponents Belgium who lacks experience when it comes to winning major trophies ahead of their France vs Belgium match. France have won this trophy on one occasion before in 1998 as host Nation whereas Belgium are yet to achieve this honor, loosing in 1986 semi-final against Argentina is their best achievement.
1998′ World Cup winning captain Didier Deschamps has lead France to this occasion with plenty of playing experience in major tournaments for Les Bleus and now managing his Nation over 80 matches.
Their run in group stage was not pleasing as expected with lack of goals from forwards but very strong defense statistics making up for their short comings offensively.
Chelsea forward Oliver Giroud is yet to score despite featuring in five of their matches and Antoine Griezmann has scored just three goals but two of them came from penalties and one was opposition’s goalkeeper error. But after group stage their performances against South American heavyweights Argentina and Uruguay were worthy of their favorites tag as they defeated Argentina by 4-3 in thrilling encounter and Uruguay by 2-0 in Knockout stages.
Benjamin Pavard is enjoying his finest stint with France as youngster has impressed with his performances in Russia and has also been instrumental in keeping out first choice right back Djibril Sidibe out of first eleven and will surely feature for France vs Belgium.
He will be in team for the France vs Belgium game alongside two of La Liga’s best defenders Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti. Left back Lucas Hernandez will continue ahead of Benjamin Mendy. Premier League duo Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante will continue in midfield with former has given two excellent performances in knockout stages. France once again will be hopeful with their main threat which come from their glorious forward line for the France vs Belgium clash.
🗣️@BenPavard28: "He’s a great forward who has scored goals wherever he’s gone & he’s a great guy. I love him."
Who wouldn't want @_OlivierGiroud_ as an older brother?!
The 31-year-old has firmly taken this young #FRA side under his wing.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 9, 2018
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe both have three goals in Russia but have not been consistent enough to fulfil fans expectations and keep their fears at ease however but both are expected to start and perform on Tuesday evening. Barcelona’s star winger is expected to come in place of Oliver Giroud after latter has failed in every game he played. Matuidi who was suspended for last match against Uruguay will be back with squad in place of Tolisso.
Opposition manager Roberto Martinez spoke ahead of the France vs Belgium game about how he is wary of Mbappe and other big names in the French squad:
“We will need to anticipate him(Mbappe) and be well-positioned, We need to defend spaces more than the player himself.
But we are not going to forget the others since France has a very complete attacking pattern”. – Roberto Martinez
Key Players for France vs Belgium:
Antoine Griezmann(Atletico Madrid, Forward)
Antoine Griezmann once again will be key for France as they are facing as world class defensive side with the likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld all set to feature in the France vs Belgium clash.
Atletico Madrid man has scored three goals and provided one assist in Russia in his five appearances for France, which are not fully satisfied statistics for player of his status. He was one of main contender for both Golden Ball and Golden Boot award and he can still grab those awards if he performs his best in remaining two matches and it starts with the most important one in France vs Belgium.
He is well known for his performances in big matches at big stage so he needs to be at his best again for France vs Belgium. He has recently signed new contract to end speculations of his transfer to Barcelona so he is not facing any off field issues or distractions like so many others reportedly did.
Paul Pogba(Manchester United, Midfielder)
Manchester United man is always trending with his off the pitch and on the pitch issues. His recent spat with his club manager Jose Mourinho about tactics has been now silenced with World Cup fever but it wont be long for some new dispute to resurface.
Since his transfer-record move to Old Trafford Pogba has been under tremendous pressure to perform up to his transfer price tag. Whether he is performing high or low par average he will be under the eye of many fans again on Tuesday for France vs Belgium.
He has not scored or assisted any goal yet in Russia but his performance against Uruguay and Argentina was excellent. With Tolisso getting the chance in midfield to feature instead of Mautidi it will help Pogba to play a more advanced role at the center of the pitch and dominate the proceedings in the France vs Belgium game.
Lineup Prediction for France:
Belgium, ranked 3rd in FIFA rankings and contains absolute world class talent in their squad from Courtois to Lukaku but never gets highlighted due to their failure and shortcomings on big stage at the World Cup and the Euro. This is now their chance to show world that they are worthy of calling themselves giants in World Football.
Former Everton manager Roberto Martinez has done well to turn those world class individuals into one team. They are the only team with 100 % winning streak in Russia with the maximum number of goals scored and least goals conceded in the group stages.
Easy Group stage fixtures against Tunisia and Panama, whom they beat easily with scoring combined eight goals. Their last fixture in group stage was against England whom they beat 1-0 with resting all key players. Their first knockout stage game against Japan whom were supposed to be easiest opponents in last sixteen, did not go down as well as expected. They managed to make a very late comeback after failing behind two goals and eventually winning 3-2 in extra time late winner from Nacer Chadli.
Their main test was in the quarter finals where they pitted themselves against tournament favorites and five time winners Brazil but they overcome that test with very impressive victory by 2-1. That victory over Brazil has drawn many attentions from all over the world to them so Tuesday fixture of France vs Belgium will be some ‘being watched’ situation for them.
Belgium will be depending upon their key men Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyene for the France vs Belgium game, two of best English Premier League playmakers. Eden Hazard has been very good form in Russia with two goals and two assists to his name and Kevin De Bruyene has contributed for only two goals but no one can undermine his work rate in midfield general role.
Both are expected to play to support lone striker Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku who failed to score against Brazil was hailed for his performance as it proved that he has got more than just scoring goals. He has scored 4 goals and assisted 1 in Russia and is strong contender for Golden Boot, competing his rival England’s Harry Kane.
In midfield Manchester United’s fringe player Marouane Fellaini who recently extended his stay at Old Trafford, will continue alongside Axel Witsel. Premier League trio Kompany, Vertonghen and Alderweireld will continue in three man defense ahead of goalkeeper Thiabaut Courtois.
Only selection dilemma will come with right wing as regular Thomas Meunier is suspended for this France vs Belgium clash with no direct replacement available. Former Manchester United prodigy Adnan Januzaj or Yannick Carrasco is expected to take right wing back role on Tuesday.
Eden Hazard(Chelsea, Inside Forward)
Eden Hazard is now well established and main player for both of his club and country, also arguably best Premier League Player for last three seasons.
He is in contention for winning Golden Ball in Russia if delivers his best on Tuesday. He has scored two goals and provided two assist in four appearances in Russia but he needs to do more in France vs Belgium if his Nation wants to progress for Final against odds.
Hazard would know. pic.twitter.com/xfGKrmO8nk
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 9, 2018
Captaining his Nation ahead of liked of Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen has been proved surprise decision by manager Roberto Martinez as he has failing with leadership qualities notably against Japan. This is only criticism he has received on minor scale in Russia. He will be under tremendous pressure against France but he will perform his best again on Tuesday.
His performance will be eyeful on Tuesday as he is being recently tipped to replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
Kevin De Bruyene(Manchester City, Midfielder)
Another player who is not behind Eden Hazard when it comes to leading team with performance. There is hardly any player who can keep up with qualities of playmaker De Bruyene.
He has scored just one goal in Russia but his only goal against Brazil showed his true class. Statistic wise he is not scoring or providing assists to goals but he has been pivotal with his team performance in Russia. He has been involved in almost every attacking move they have created and Tuesday’s France vs Belgium game wont be any different.
His midfield battle against Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante will be main key for Belgium and if he can prevail over those two then there is no stopping to De Bruyene and Belgium for France vs Belgium.
Lineup Prediction for Belgium:
Head to Head France vs Belgium:
France and Belgium have played two matches in World Cup history with France winning on both occasions. Latest World Cup meeting happened in 1986 with France winning 4-2.
Last time they played against each other was friendly fixture where Belgium won 4-3 in France.
History is mostly lying in favor of France so will all odds and bets be but Belgium possesses some names in squad who can turn the course of the France vs Belgium game by any minute.
Match Prediction For France vs Belgium:
France 3-1 Belgium.