FIFA World Cup 2018
France vs Belgium
Krestovsky Stadium, Russia
Tuesday, 10-07-2018 @09:00pm
Tuesday will see the first semi final of the 2018 FIFA World cup in Russia, the first of two all European match ups.
This is the first World Cup semi final that sees all four teams from the same continent (Europe) since 2006 when Italy, Germany, Portugal and France contested for the two finals’ spots in Germany.
Two pre-tournament favorites in Belgium and France do battle at the Krestovsky Stadium for the four time in a major tournament with Le Bleus winning all the first three.
Didier Deschamps’s France have not blown away opposition in convincing style but have somehow won their games comfortably, including triumphs over Argentina and Uruguay in the round of 16 and quarters respectively.
Also Read: Les Bleus dare to dream
For Belgium, they have seen their side win by a one goal margin in both their knock-out games, 3-2 vs Japan and 2-1 against pre-tournament favorites Brazil in the quarter finals.
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Henry’s presence in the Belgium camp adds additional intrigue to this game. France’s last World Cup semi-final, against Portugal in 2006, was decided by a penalty won by Henry and converted by Zinedine Zidane.
France coach Didier Deschamps, a former team-mate of Henry, says it will be “bizarre” to see him on the opposition bench, but adds “he is someone I really appreciate”.
France’s Blaise Matuidi is available after a ban and is set to return in place of fellow midfielder Corentin Tolisso, who deputized for the Juventus man against Uruguay. Striker Olivier Giroud will keep his starting spot despite not registering a shot on target at this World Cup.
For Belgium, right wing-back Thomas Meunier is suspended for Belgium, so a defensive reshuffle will be required.
Head coach Roberto Martinez changed tactics against Brazil, abandoning his favoured 3-4-2-1 formation and it remains to be seen if he will do likewise against another big name side in France. Centre-forward Romelu Lukaku spent much of that game on the right flank, with midfielder Kevin de Bruyne at times operating as a false nine.
Also read: Belgium overcome odds to reach last eight in Russia
What they are saying ahead of the game:
Didier Deschamps, France head coach:
“When you go to a club abroad and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy, said Deschamps on Theirry Henry.
“This time, in an international match, it is much higher.
“He is facing his home nation. From the time he became an assistant to Roberto Martinez [Belgium manager], he did know that can happen.
“It is a difficult situation – bizarre – it is not easy for him.
Roberto Martinez, Belgium head coach:
“The players have been working together extraordinarily well for many years, and they deserve to be exactly where they are today.
“It’s a trip into the unknown.
We’ve never been in such a situation, and that’s why we need our team spirit more than ever against France. We need to be the best version of ourselves.
“Both teams have the right mix of youth and experience and also lots of individual talent.
Also read: Belgium Proper Russia 2018 Dark Horses
-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.
-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 goal scorers 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.