Russia 2018 World Cup preview & possible line-up: France vs Belgium
A place in the World Cup final is at stake when European heavyweights France and Belgium meet for the 74th time in all competitions at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
|Referee: Cunha A. (Uru)|
|Venue: Saint-Petersburg Stadium (Saint Petersburg)|
|Two of Europe’s heavyweights go H2H in a game that’s been coined as the “final before the final”. On paper, these sides are stronger than the other two semi-finalists, meaning that the eventual winner will be installed as favourites to lift the 2018 World Cup (WC).|
|Belgium are playing attractive football, but it is a France side led by WC winner Didier Deschamps that stands between Belgium and their first ever WC final. Despite being the second youngest side in the tournament, ‘Les Bleus’ have proven to be a match for anyone.|
|The hype surrounding the so-called “Golden Generation” of Belgian football stars has finally been justified. In reaching the semi-finals, Belgium have now matched their finest ever WC run, which ended at this stage in Mexico ‘86.|
|The last time these two nations faced off against each other at the WC finals was Mexico ‘86 in the third place playoff. On that occasion, France prevailed by winning 4-2 in extra time, after the first 90 minutes yielded a 2-2 scoreline.|
|Players to watch: Antoine Griezmann has scored in each of France’s two knockout games, however he will need to go goal-crazy to have any chance of winning the golden boot.|
|Stat attack: Belgium have scored at least two goals in all but one game during this competition.|
France welcome back Blaise Matuidi, who returns after serving a suspension of his own during his side’s 2-0 win against Uruguay in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Belgium will be without the suspended Thomas Meunier after he picked up a second caution of the tournament in his side’s 2-1 win over Brazil.
This will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides since the 1986 World Cup, when France won 4-2 in the third-place playoff.
France have won both World Cup meetings against Belgium, winning 3-1 in the first round in 1938, and 4-2 in the third-place playoff match in 1986.
Belgium won 4-3 the last time they met France, in a friendly in Paris in 2015.
Belgium’s haul of 14 goals is the most by the semi-final stage of a World Cup tournament since Brazil in 2002 (15). Belgium have had nine different goalscorers in the 2018 World Cup (excluding own goals); only Italy in 2006 and France in 1982 (10 each) have had more in a single tournament.
Excluding shootouts, France have lost just one of their last 13 games in the knockout rounds of the World Cup (W10 D2 L1).
France forward Antoine Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last six knockout stage matches in major tournaments (World Cup and EUROs).
Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 games for Belgium in all competitions (17 goals, 3 assists).
France’s Kylian Mbappe (3 goals) is the highest scoring teenager in a World Cup tournament since Pele scored six in 1958. Pele scored a hat-trick against France in the semi-final of that tournament, the last teen to score in the last four of the competition.
Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 14 games for Belgium (8 goals, 6 assists).
|Four of Belgium’s five games during the campaign have produced over 2.5 goals in total.|
|Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann have scored six of France’s nine goals between them.|
|Three of the last four meetings between the sides have produced under 2.5 goals in total.|
|Both sides have already won from losing positions during this tournament.|