Big Match Breakdown: France v Belgium
World Cup semi-final preview and odds
The first of the World Cup semi-finals takes place tonight in what could be one for the ages between France and Belgium.
Both sides boast a blistering strikeforce, and both have displayed their prowess on a number of occasions in Russia.
There are so many talking points. Will Romelu Lukaku or Eden Hazard win it for Belgium? Will Kylian Mbappe be unstoppable once again? Or will Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris ensure it’s all about the goalkeepers?
The Coral News Team are on hand with the Big Match Breakdown…
This will be the first World Cup meeting between the sides since the 1986 World Cup third-place play-off. France won that one 4-2 after extra-time.
The pair have played three friendly matches since 2011. The first two were 0-0s, with the most recent a 4-3 thriller going the way of Belgium.
Roberto Martinez’s side have won all five of their matches so far, while France have won four and drawn one in Russia.
The Belgians are also the top scorers by some distance, bagging 14 goals to Les Bleus’ nine.
Roberto Martinez made some bold calls for Belgium’s 2-1 win over Brazil, and they paid off handsomely.
He brought in Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli for Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco.
The move also saw Kevin De Bruyne pushed up from his deep-lying role to the left of a front three alongside Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
The plan worked to excellent effect, but Thomas Meunier’s suspension means at least one change must be made. Either Youri Tielemans or Carrasco could come in.
Didier Deschamps has options too, although it’s clear that France are far more balanced when Olivier Giroud is up top.
The France boss must choose who to play behind Giroud and alongside Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe. Blaise Matuidi, Corentin Tolisso and Ousmane Dembele are the options.
Tolisso started the quarter-final win over Uruguay, so perhaps that’s an indicator. Both sides are likely to be unchanged defensively.
This promises to be a fascinating encounter. France disposed of Lionel Messi and Argentina, while Belgium did likewise to Neymar and Brazil.
Vincent Kompany must ensure Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen don’t leave him exposed against Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain striker’s pace is a huge threat.
At the other end of the pitch, Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti must keep tabs on Hazard and Lukaku.
Both players have been devastatingly effective when coming in off the flanks, drawing defenders out of position and allowing team-mates to find space.
Then there’s the battle in the middle of the park. Can N’Golo Kante stop De Bruyne? And can Alex Witsel do likewise versus Paul Pogba?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing