It could have been a final; it should have been the final, but Belgium’s encounter with France has nonetheless come sooner rather than later.
Les Bleus are penciled to take on Belgium on Tuesday night in the first semi-final of the FIFA World Cup, with the match scheduled to take place at Saint Petersburg Stadium.
Needless to say that plenty will be at stake in the match, as whoever triumphs will advance into the final where they will lock horns with the winner of the second semi-final encounter between Croatia and England.
It’s not so much that the Belgian Red devils had to face France in the final, since their initial pool placement meant that only one would go through if push comes to shove, but rather the huge attraction it draws that makes it worthy of a final.
Roberto Martinez’s side advanced into the last four after brushing aside Brazil with a 2-1 victory in the quarter-finals. A 2-1 triumph shouldn’t by any account be a cruising victory, but the score line in this particular instance was not a true reflection of the imposing performance exhibited by Belgium.
The Europeans took the early initiative and were soon rewarded for their strong start through an own goal by Fernandinho. Nacer Chadli swung in a threatening ball from a corner, only for the leather to inadvertently sail into the back of the net after striking the Manchester City midfielder within the opening quarter of an hour.
One man’s loss so happens to be another man’s gain, as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne shone on the night as he grabbed Belgium’s second of the match.
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Romelu Lukaku made a bullish run from the centre of the park before fashioning a chance for the 27-year old who bundled it home with unerring accuracy in the 31st minute.
Belgium’s defensive pillar stood strong and fervent, occasionally calling upon Thibaut Courtois who was equal to the task. The Chelsea shot stopper was however beaten fourteen minutes before stoppage time, as substitute Renato Augusto got on the finishing end of Philippe Coutinho’s cross with an exquisite header.
It may have been a jab to Belgium’s resolute defensive line, but it was nothing more than a Brazilian addition to the statistics board, as the Samba boys couldn’t conjure up a comeback with the remaining time.
France on the other hand proved to be the panacea for Uruguay, as Oscar Tabarez was once again overlooked on his fourth bid for the gold with the South American side.
Les Bleus coasted to victory after an emphatic 2-0 win over Uruguay courtesy of goals by Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann. The former headed France into the lead from a corner five minutes before the interval, but it was the latter that put them in cruised control of the match with a long range effort after the break.
The ball looked like a routine save for Fernando Muslera but the veteran Uruguay goalkeeper made an uncharacteristic error, as his misjudged block wound up rolling into his own net.
The French were astute yet easy on the eye, in stark contrast to Los Charrúas who had nothing doing for them on the day.
Corentin Tolisso looks poised to drop to the bench to pave way for Blaise Matuidi who will once again be available for selection having been suspended during the win over Uruguay.
Other than Djibril Sidibe who is an injury doubt, Didier Deschamps has a full strength squad to choose from as he prepares for the decisive semi-final clash with Belgium who will be without the suspended Thomas Meunier.
Belgium vs. France betting prediction
France against Belgium will undoubtedly be the closest yet most entertaining semi-final encounter. Both sides have an endless set of players acclimatized to one another at club level, from the likes of Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pobga and Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti et al.
Both teams are prolific in attack, unflinching at the back and well rounded in midfield which makes this a very close call. I personally am disappointed this isn’t the final.
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France & Belgium recent results
France 2-1 Australia (June 16, 2018)
Antoine Griezmann 58′ (P)
Aziz Behich 80′ (OG)
Mile Jedinak 62′ (P)
France 1-0 Peru (June 21, 2018)
Kylian Mbappe 34′
Denmark 0-0 France (June 26, 2018)
France 4-3 Argentina (June 30, 2018)
Antoine Griezmann 13′
Benjamin Pavard 57′
Kylian Mbappe 64′, 68′
Angel Di Maria 41′
Gabriel Mercado 48′
Sergio Aguero 90+3′
Uruguay 0-2 France (July 6, 2018)
Raphael Varane 40′
Antoine Griezmann 61′
Belgium 3-0 Panama (June 18, 2018)
Dries Mertens 47′
Romelu Lukaku 69′, 75′
Belgium 5-2 Tunisia (June 23, 2018)
Eden Hazard 6′ (P), 51′
Romelu Lukaku 16′, 45+3′
Michy Batshuayi 90′
Dylan Bronn 18′
Wahbi Khazri 90+3′
England 0-1 Belgium (June 28, 2018)
Adnan Januzaj 51′
Belgium 3-2 Japan (July 2, 2018)
Jan Vertonghen 69′
Marouane Fellaini 74′
Nacer Chadli 90+4′
Genki Haraguchi 48′
Takashi Inui 52′
Brazil 1-2 Belgium (July 6, 2018)
Renato Augusto 76′
Fernandinho 13′ (OG)
Kevin De Bruyne 31′
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