Belgium and France face off in mouth-watering semi-final

Esequiel Farfan
Julio 11, 2018

France's Samuel Umtiti scores their first goal past Belgium's Thibaut Courtois in Saint Petersburg July 11, 2018.

The game will feature plenty of talented attackers and has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the competition. France takes on its neighbors in Belgium, adding the weight of a rivalry to the already important match. If England beats Croatia in the second semifinal on Wednesday, then the final could see the two youngest teams in the knockout round fighting not just for this trophy but for the momentum that could then help them win more.

France and Belgium have met over 70 times, but the stakes were never as high as they are on Tuesday. Dubbed by many as the two best teams left in the competition, we could be in line for a thrilling encounter between two attacking-minded teams.

Belgium managed to deny Neymar last time out, but they must now do the same with Mbappe who dismantled Argentina in the last 16.

Roberto Martinez introduced an extra attacker in Dries Mertens in an attempt to turn the tide and he almost had an immediate impact as his cross was headed inches wide by Marouane Fellaini.

"The game was very close, very tight", Belgium manager Roberto Martinez said following the match.

'Unfortunately for us the difference was a dead ball situation, a set play, ' Martinez said.

Both teams had ample chances in a wide-open first half, with Hugo Lloris coming up especially big on a Toby Alderweireld chance that appeared goal-bound to keep Belgium off the board.

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Confidence is sky-high after they ousted Neymar's Brazil in the quarter-finals but they will come up against formidable opponents in France as they try to reach a first ever World Cup final.

Didier Deschamps knows what it takes to win a World Cup having been part of the playing squad in 1998, and he is slowly nurturing a squad full of talent into potential World Cup winners.

An even match then saw Blaise Matuidi fire in a shot on 18 minutes but Courtois was grateful that it was straight at him. For Belgium, it was the end of an audacious World Cup bid. He whipped his cross across goal but Marouane Fellaini was unable to get a touch to turn the ball goal-ward. The spread had France at -130, while Belgium was at +110. All said and done, this has the ingredients for a modern classic and could decide the victor of the 2018 World Cup.

The Chelsea star interchanged positions with Kevin de Bruyne in the opening minutes and the French backline scrambled to negotiate the incoming raids.

In a World Cup replete with set-piece goals, a corner again proved decisive when Umtiti timed his run perfectly to meet Antoine Griezmann's delivery six minutes into the second half.

In a World Cup which has not exactly witnessed the most free-flowing of games, France hold the edge in this regard with Belgium preferring to play an expansive style.

Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez have grown as the tournament has worn on, but the real heroes have been Raphael Varane and Sam Umtiti.

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