Belgium vs France
World Cup- Semi Final
Saint Petersburg Stadium/ Saint Petersburg
2 PM ET, July 10, 2018
Line: France +149 Belgium +185
FREE FIFA World Cup Pick Belgium vs France
Following a thrilling round of quarter-final matches, we are now down to just four teams remaining at the 2018 World Cup. Roberto Martinez’s swashbuckling Belgium side head into Tuesday’s semi-final with familiar foes France as the World Cup’s leading scorers, but their old rivals have evolved as the tournament has progressed and will also be full of confidence. Belgium enters their semi-final match as unlikely participants after having to storm back against Japan in the round of 16, and then miraculously defeating the Brazilians. Manager Roberto Martinez has his side playing to their potential, and finally all of their skill and talent has not gone to waste. They love their chances going forward clearly, and it should make for a thrilling showdown against their southwestern neighbors, France. The time is now for Belgium’s golden generation of soccer stars. It’s a talent pool filled of world-class players, and the fear is if they don’t produce something big in Russia, this chance of a lifetime might not appear again with this group. Belgium are too hot to handle at the moment. The firepower of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard’s mesmeric displays and Kevin De Bryune’s constructional role have made life easy for this ridiculously skilled squad. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweierld look well settled in Belgium’s backline. The leadership and robustness of Vincent Kompany has been retained- something that the Belgians were missing for a long time. However, they will be without Thomas Meunier, who is suspended after picking up a yellow against Brazil. Expect Chadli and Fellaini to maintain their starting places. Martinez reaped praises across the world for getting his tactics absolutely spot on against Brazil. He deployed Lukaku on the right wing making room for De Bruyne to operate as a false 9. This tactic worked against a mighty Brazilian side but may not necessarily work against France. The Belgium defence found a way to keep the theatrical Neymar quiet and must do the same against Mbappe and Griezmann. Belgium is a slow defensive unit and will have to toil hard against the demonic pace of French attack. The Red Devils are blessed with prolific frontmen and will if granted opportunities; they can score at their will. This enthusiastic squad can still unleash one or two deadly moves in order to win the famed trophy and if all cards are played well then France might be put to misery.
France sleep-walked through the group stages, eking out wins over Australia and Peru before a stultifying 0-0 draw with Denmark but the Les Bleus have put fire to their soul in the knock-out stages. The French too have endured some significant bumps at this tournament, but their offense has clicked and it’s carried them to the semis. They had to battle hard vs. Argentina last week in the round of 16, and despite the fact that they never truly looked to be themselves in the group stage – the French have kicked it into high gear. Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are in fine form at the moment, and their fluidity in attack has to concern the defensively vulnerable Belgians. France are perhaps peaking ahead of their time, with Didier Deschamps’ young team viewed by many as not likely to mature into potential World Cup winners until Qatar 2022. Though this infant squad has proved them wrong for the time being, it has to be seen how do they survive against the peppy Belgians. There is an argument that doubts should remain about a defence who conceded three times against Argentina, but in France’s other four matches a goal has not been conceded from open play. In the grand scheme of things, France need to take that confidence into a game against a team such as Belgium because while Argentina and Uruguay possessed the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, they are yet to face a team who are performing collectively in the final third. That said, this team will be wary, they will not be scared. Deschamps might need to exercise few tactical adventures like his counter-part Martinez in order to get the better of Belgians. Blasie Matuidi is set to return to first team after his suspension. Giroud is expected to spear head the French attack and Griezmann is expected to play a more of a supporting role. Paul Pogba has been vivid and has dazzled with his performances so far. France will once again go to the battle field with speed their paramount weapon and will look to rip a few holes in this Belgium defence. France, in turn, have to find a way to nullify De Bruyne and Hazard, but the Belgians possess more match winners. Do the French have the mentality and composure to beat Belgium in a huge game? That is the only real question.
Belgium: Romelu Lukaku. Romelu Lukaku has already lit up the tournament scoring four goals. However his biggest performance came against Brazil where Lukaku showed off his versatility playing at the wing and created space for De Bruyne. The brawny striker is a monster in the air and his physicality is second to none.
France: Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann has been at the helm of French attack and is now a senior figure. He has scored 3 goals so far but has looked hungry for more. His style of attacking play with sleek passing catalysed by his pace make him a formidable threat for the opposition defence. Despite taking a more central role he remains a menacing forward.
Belgium: Eden Hazard. Hazard is the captain and the poster boy of this squad. His super quick feet and artistic imagination takes him to a different level. He was outstanding in the game against Brazil and will look to emulate the same performance against France. The Belgian is at the pinnacle of his career and Belgium will look to him in times of trauma for aid.
France: Paul Pogba. Pogba has been terrific in Russia so far. None of his performances have been sub-standard. He might not have scored some amazing goals or racked up assists but his overall display has been colossal. He will have to be at his best in France’s midfield in order to tackle the tantalizing Belgium attack.
The Young Gun:
Belgium: Youri Tielemans. Tielemans is not expected to start the game but can come as a defensive cover if need be. Tielemans has impressed for what he has played in Russia and is one of the trusted youngsters of Martinez. He can play the role of a defensive midfielder or can also function on the left of midfield.
France: Kylian Mbappe. This wasn’t a surprise. Mbappe has taken the world by storm after his glittering performance against Argentina. Intimidating with his twinkle-toe runs, Mbappe can give nightmares to a tortoise speeded Belgium defence. With his scintillating performances, he would be a nice bet to score for France.
The Driving Spirit:
Belgium: Belgium supporters are also now beginning to believe after that historic victory over Brazil. They know this might be their country’s best ever chance of glory. Expect Belgium to flourish forward in numbers and that’s when they are most dangerous.
France: Following impressive knockout wins over Argentina and Uruguay, hopes are high back in France that Les Bleus could emulate their 1998 triumph. France will look desperately to control the tempo of the game and will have to labor a lot in midfield to win the ball back.
FREE FIFA World Cup Pick France vs Belgium
The French enter as the favorites for this match, but you have to wonder if that’s more on pedigree and past performance. Belgium seems to be the superior attacking side right now, and have endured a much tougher route to get to this stage. Beating Brazil is about as tough as it gets, and though they were outplayed – they proved to the world that they can defend and hold a lead when given the chance. Getting Vincent Kompany back for the center of defense has proven to be a huge help. Expect the Belgians to stick with a similar lineup, and I think Marouane Fellaini will be able to stymie the ball-winning prowess of N’Golo Kante in the midfield. Kante has been dominant at times this tournament, but Fellaini has the physicality to negate that.
And though Belgium has shown some defensive vulnerabilities, there has been a fair bit of turnover in personnel back there. Getting Vincent Kompany back into the fold has helped settled the threesome down, and following an impressive showing against Neymar last week – they have the ability to limit the likes of Mbappe and Griezmann coming forward.
Ultimately the Belgians possess more high-end skill, and more match-winners. They’re a more veteran side who realize the importance of this moment, and while the smaller country does not possess the same depth necessarily as their French neighbors, this is an excellent starting eleven and they’ll show it again on Tuesday. Expect a tight match, and despite the attacking talent of both teams – neither will want to get caught out on a counter-attack.