Home Fifa World Cup - Russia 2018 France vs Belgium match preview #WorldCup

France vs Belgium match preview #WorldCup

TEAM NEWS

France’s Blaise Matuidi is available after a ban and is set to return in place of fellow midfielder Corentin Tolisso, who deputised against Uruguay.

Striker Olivier Giroud will keep his starting spot despite not registering a shot on target at this World Cup. 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. 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.

It remains to be seen whether Martinez repeats that ploy against the French.

OVERVIEW

Roberto Martinez has urged Belgium to “play without fear” in their World Cup semi-final against France, and given his bold approach in the stunning win against Brazil, it is clearly a mantra he believes in.

With Kevin de Bruyne deployed in a false nine role, Romelu Lukaku found space on the right flank, reprising a ploy Martinez had occasionally used at Everton.

Top scorer Lukaku has not been on target in either of Belgium’s two knockout wins but has earned plaudits for his all-round game, and assisted the second goal against Brazil. The striker seems to be relishing working with Martinez’s assistant, France’s record scorer Thierry Henry.

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”.

VIEW FROM BOTH CAMPS

France defender Raphael Varane: “Belgium are young, but they are maturing. We know it will be a tough match… Romelu Lukaku’s physicality can trouble any defence. We can’t leave him any space because he’s a quality player.

“As for Eden [Hazard], I’ve already played against him when he was at Lille. He has great qualities and is a good dribbler. We can’t give him any space either, so it is going to take a collective effort.”

Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: “When you reach the semi-finals of a World Cup you’re never going to find ordinary opposition.

“We are on an equal footing with France, we will try and do everything we can physically and mentally. At the end, you do all you can to win and if they’re better, they’re better. That’s football.”

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • 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.
  • Belgium are unbeaten in the last three friendly games (W1, D2), winning the most recent encounter 4-3 in June 2015. Marouane Fellaini scored twice in that game as the Belgians raced into a three-goal lead inside 50 minutes.
  • This will be the 74th match between the sides. Belgium have claimed 30 wins, with 24 victories for France and 19 draws.

France

  • 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

  • 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 goalscorers 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.
  • Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 games for Belgium (17 goals, 3 assists).

Source: BBC News

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