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France vs Belgium, 2018 World Cup semifinal, epic encounter

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France vs. Belgium: We may see last of the epic encounter of 2018 World Cup

FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 has served us well. To be honest, it will be injustice to say well. Russia 2018 World Cup is one of the best World Cup ever been witnessed, but we may see last of the epic encounter of this World Cup in France vs. Belgium game at the semi-final.

Both of the European giants have overcome South American traditional great teams challenge to reach here and confidence of the both teams is at top. Whereas France knocked out Argentina and Uruguay in consecutive rounds, Belgium eliminated tournament favourite Brazil.

They have one of the best talents in the world mixed with some great experienced player. It’s going to be an epic encounter. You can’t get so much of talent and youthfulness on the pitch in the very same match anywhere else. It deserved to be the last epic encounter of 2018 World Cup.

In another semi-final Croatia will take on England, but considering England’s defensive style and not creating much of the chances from open play, we don’t see it to produce the same spectacle as France vs. Belgium.

England may sing along “It’c coming home”, but they must deal with what’s coming first. If they even get past Luka Modric’s Croatia challenge, it’s going to be either France or Belgium. Belgium have already defeated England 1-0 at group stage when both sides chooses to rest their first playing XI. It’s not going to be easy for Three Lions, but let’s first focus on first of the semifinal which will be played between France and Belgium.

France have head to head advantage winning all three of their past games against Belgium, but I need to remind you that it’s not about past glory. Belgium is living in present and they have reached that stage eliminating tournament most historic and title winning side. They made a joke of Tite’s side which boast of stars like Neymar, Coutinho, Costa, Jesus, Willian, Paulinho, and any other Brazil’s squad member name you want to put on the list.

Red Devils had a great game. Strategically and tactically, they left Brazil undone. What a great first-half they had with Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard running the show and likes of Neymar and Coutinho in opposition camp can only watch the disaster they produced. It’s going to be same against France is difficult to say, but you can’t rule them out.

France is in a different mood as well. it felt like they were on some kind of mission to send South American teams home as they send Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay home. I guess they were ready to send Brazil packing as well, if they’d have made it into the semi-finals. But, thankfully Belgium dealt with them.

Now, it will be a fight between two European teams who have a run riot against the tournament favourites. It’s difficult to point out their weaknesses coming into this game, knowing they have so much of depth in their squad.

France defense has yet to be tested to be fair except their game against Argentina. However, in that game as well, Argentina’s both goals were accidental. Angel Di Maria strikes brilliantly from some 30 yards and defence has little to do with it, when your opposition can harm you with that range. Another that Mercado scored was a deflection and Frace were just unlucky there. But, that’s a worry sign considering Belgium strength as well.

Belgium have the players who can cause problem for defense from long range as well. Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne, both are equally dangerous from outside of the box when spaces get open up. Eden Hazard is a threat as well from outside the box, when Romelu Lukaku bring his physical game into action stretching France defence.

Marouane Fellaini is always a danger from set pieces. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld is not going to leave any spaces for Griezmann & co. Their only problem is right-back Thomas Meunier is suspended for the game, and they’ll really have to come up with a better option. However, Alderweireld can operate in that position too replaced by Vincent Kompany is centre-back position.

It’s not only the man on the pitch, players coming off the bench can also hurt the opposition. We saw against Japan in last 16 match, when Japan were leading 2-0. Fellaini and Nacer Chadli came off the bench and both scores to put a fight-back and win the match in regular time. It witnessed that they have a plan B in place as well, and not to forget the plan C which Roberto Martinez successfully implanted against Brazil coming up with a different formation.

Well, France has yet to bring their plan B and Plan C into the game. They started with Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, and Antoine Griezmann in the starting game, but then they they opted for Olivier Giroud in the place for Dembele and they have gone with the same formation in every game.

They have been successful, but it’s credit goes to their defensive midfielders. N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi have done a brilliant job to not allow opposition much of the possession their half, and making it difficult for opponents to be fluent with their paces.

It’s only their sureity at back, which has allowed someone like Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann to link up, and feed the pacy teenage winger Kylian Mbappe. Giroud hasn’t have any shot on the target but he has done a fair job to toy with opposition defensive line. His goals are concern but not when he’s able to create them for others without touching the ball.

France defensive line is one of the best in the tournament. Real Madrid’s Raphael varane and Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti are the defensive duo to take care of every ball coming into their penalty-box, and it’s always difficult against the best players in their position. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez have already proved their mettle in right-back and left-back position, how they cope up with Hazard’s dribbling skill is going to be a real challenge.

Both sides are solid at back, having a supreme midfield lineup, and attackers who can bring fear to any team. It deserves to be a spectacle and I’ve no doubt that it’s going to be last epic encounter of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.

Probable lineup:

France: Lloris, Varane, umtiti, Pavard, Hernandez, Kante, Pogba, Matuidi, Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud

Belgium: Coutois, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Kompany, Carrasco, Witsel, Fellaini, Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens, Lukaku

Predictions:

It’s difficult one. I don’t want to be dragged either side, but I see Belgium has an edge considering the attack they boast of with little spaces as well. France mainly rely on Mbappe pace when there is enough room to outrun opposition defense, which I clearly don’t see against Belgium.

Belgium to win 3-2 (Lukaku, De Bruyne, and Hazard to score, whereas Griezmann and Varane to score for France)

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