FIFA World Cup: France vs Belgium preview

The first semi-final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will take place on Tuesday evening at Saint-Petersburg Stadium, where former champions France take on rising stars Belgium. The two teams have last met in a friendly match in 2015, which Belgium won 4-3 after having led 2-0 at half time. They have not clashed in a competitive match since the 1986 World Cup, when France defeated Belgium 4-2 after extra time in the third place playoff. That was the only time that Belgium reached the last four at a World Cup until now. France have not reach such a late stage in the competition since 2006, when they got beaten in the final by Italy. However, they have played in the semi-finals five times before and have reached the final twice.

France have earned their place in the World Cup semi-finals with better and better performances since the start of the tournament, but what impressed most was their defence. Probably their worst performance at the World Cup so far was during their 2-1 victory over Australia in the first group match. Since then, the French secured qualification with a narrow 1-0 win over Peru and a boring goalless draw against Denmark before unleashing their quality in the 4-3 victory over Argentina and the 2-0 triumph over Uruguay in the knockout phase of the competition. Djibril Sidibe remains the only injury concern, but right-back Benjamin Pavard has done very well so far in his absence. Blaise Matuidi returns from suspension and will most likely replace Corentin Tolisso in midfield.

Everybody expected great things from Belgium at the 2018 World Cup and so far they have delivered. They ended the group stage with three wins out of three, 3-0 over Panama, 5-2 against Tunisia and 1-0 over England, and then survived the biggest scare in the first knockout round as they fought back from 2-0 down to defeat Japan. But their masterpiece was in the quarter-finals, they faced mighty Brazil and pulled off a well-deserved 2-1 victory thanks to an own-goal from Fernandinho and a fabulous strike from Kevin De Bruyne. Right side wing-back Thomas Meunier is suspended for the semi-final match, so head coach Roberto Martinez might place Nacer Chadli on that right flank and employ Yannick Ferreira Carrasco on the left flank again.

Probable line-ups:

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

Belgium: Courtois - Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen - Chadli, Fellaini, Witsel, Carrasco - De Bruyne, Hazard - Lukaku

My prediction: 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, there should be a fierce battle between these two sides.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

France win - 2.54
Draw - 3.25
Belgium win - 3.10

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