France and Belgium will renew their long-running rivalry when they meet in a 2018 World Cup semifinal at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, July 10, kick-off at 20h00 CAT.
France moved into the final four of the global tournament for the sixth time in their history after claiming a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the quarterfinals on Friday. Goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann took ‘Les Bleus’ to victory.
Coach Didier Deschamps will have been delighted with his team’s disciplined performance and their ability to break down a defensively-sound team such as ‘La Celeste’ while also keeping a clean sheet at the other end.
France’s Kylian Mbappe had a much quieter game against Uruguay compared to his spectacular showing against Argentina, but he could return to the limelight against Belgium’s three-man defence – especially if he can get a clean run at the creaking Vincent Kompany.
Belgium showed their tactical flexibility and mental strength with a stunning 2-1 win over Brazil in their quarterfinal, booking a place in the final four of the ‘Mundial’ for just the second time.
The ‘Red Devils’ changed their system slightly and went with a more counter-attacking approach against the South American heavyweights. An own goal from Fernandinho and a sledgehammer strike from Kevin De Bruyne saw them to victory.
Coach Roberto Martinez deserves great credit for outsmarting Tite in the battle of coaching wits, though Belgium did have a few narrow escapes and their defence remains an Achilles Heel for France to target.
At the other end, Romelu Lukaku has failed to score in the knockout round thus far but has still been a key figure for the ‘Red Devils’. His ability to both hold up the ball and use his powerful running to lead counter-attacks makes him the spearhead around which Eden Hazard and De Bruyne can thrive.
France VS Belgium
In head-to-head terms, France and Belgium have met in 73 previous matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. The ‘Red Devils’ have claimed 30 wins compared to 24 for ‘Les Bleus’, while 19 games have been drawn.
The teams have met twice in the World Cup before, with France winning on both occasions: 3-1 in a first-round clash in Colombes in 1938, and 4-2 in the third-place playoff in Cuauhtemoc in 1986. The teams’ most recent clash overall was a friendly in Saint-Denis in June 2015 which was won 4-3 by Belgium.
This promises to be a cracking clash between two gifted attacking teams and the difference may very well be in which of the two can defend better – if that’s the case, ‘Les Bleus’ have looked more solid at the back and may just have the edge over the ‘Red Devils’.
France v Belgium – head-to-head
Matches played 73
France wins 24
Belgium wins 30
France goals 127
Belgium goals 160