France will go head to head with Belgium in the first semi-final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday. Both teams are in fine form and deserve to have made it this far in this competition. Les Bleus beat Uruguay 2-0 in the last round while the Red Devils got the better of Brazil in a highly entertaining 2-1 contest.
The recent history of this fixture makes a mixed reading for both teams as France has won 1, drawn 2 and lost 1 of their past four meetings with Belgium. However, the last time these two nations squared off in the World Cup was in 1986 when the French beat the Belgians with a convincing 4-2 scoreline. Will history repeat itself? Only time will tell.
Didier Deschamps will have to make up his mind about which players to include in his midfield trio with Blaise Matuidi returning from suspension. Corentin Tolisso was deployed in the absence of the Juventus midfield enforcer in their last World Cup outing. However, Matuidi could return to the heart of the French midfield alongside Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
The rest of the French team should remain the same as the one that was selected for the match versus Uruguay in the last round.
Thomas Meunier will be suspended for this game which will force Roberto Martinez to make a change on the right side of his midfield. It is expected that Nacer Chadli could be asked to fill in that position in the absence of Meunier and operate as a makeshift right wing-back. If the Belgium manager changes his formation to 4-3-3, then Toby Alderweireld could also be asked to play at right-back and Thomas Vermaelen could slot in as a centre-half.
There are no other fresh injury concerns for Martinez to deal with so he will have a full squad to choose from, for this crunch World Cup semi-final clash.
Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Kante, Matuidi, Pogba; Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud.
Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini, Chadli; E. Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku.
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe will once again be expected to get their names on the score-sheet if the French are to win this match. Both Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti will need to keep things tight at the back if Les Bleus are to seal a passage through to the World Cup final.
The Red Devils will depend on Romelu Lukaku to cause a lot of headaches for the French defenders. Both Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will be the creative force of the team so they need to have a good game if Belgium are to gain a positive result from this contest.
The backline of Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen will all need to put in a solid performance in order to keep the fluid and pacy French attack at bay.
France win: 9/4
Belgium win: 31/20
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