Kickoff in St. Petersburg!
Belgium in pink, France in blue.
Feeling like Nostradamus?
You can guess on the precise rating of the sport (after 90 minutes). The favourite is 1-1, adopted by 1-Zero France, Zero-Zero, 2-1 France, 1-Zero Belgium and 2-1 Belgium. Think regulation time will finish in tie of Four-Four or larger? If you’re proper, you’ll be rewarded with a payout of 400-1.
Yellow Cards Are Cleared
Yellow playing cards have been worn out after the quarterfinals, so anybody who picks one up as we speak would nonetheless be eligible to play in Sunday’s ultimate. A pink card, although, is a unique story; anybody despatched off as we speak faces a one-match ban.
France’s Starting Lineup
France sticks with what’s labored: Pavard-Varane-Umtiti-Hernandez throughout the again, protected by Kanté and Pogba as wanted. Matuidi, Griezmann and Mbappé will swirl in and round Giroud, who begins alone up high
Goalkeeper: 1 Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Defenders: 21 Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), 2 Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), 5 Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Four Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: 13 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), 14 Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), 6 Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Forwards: 9 Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), 7 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), 10 Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain)
Belgium’s Starting Lineup
Belgium, too,, sticks with what’s working: Fellaini begins once more with Witsel and Mousa Dembélé in a hard-working, flanked by Nacer Chadli and De Bruyne. Hazard and Lukaku up entrance, and the identical three-man again line that acquired them this far: Vertonghen, Kompany and Alderweireld.
Goalkeeper: 1 Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Defenders: 2 Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Four Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), 5 Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Midfielders: 7 Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), 19 Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Eight Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), 10 Eden Hazard (Chelsea), 6 Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)
Forwards: 22 Nacer Chadli (West Brom), 9 Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Belgium’s More Accurate
Belgium’s assault has been prolific, taking pictures 85 instances, second solely to Brazil. France has shot solely 56 instances, trailing eradicated international locations like Spain, Germany and Mexico. Belgium’s photographs have additionally been extra correct: 39 p.c have been on course, in contrast with 34 p.c of France’s photographs.
Belgium’s Winning Streak
Belgium misplaced its first match underneath Roberto Martinez to Spain in August 2016 and is unbeaten in 24 video games since (19 wins).
Kevin De Bruyne’s Role
The fortunes of Belgium, and the contributions of Kevin De Bruyne, have risen in tandem for the reason that Red Devils fell behind Japan, 2-Zero, within the spherical of 16. Facing elimination and needing targets, Roberto Martinez despatched on Marouane Fellaini in a defensive midfielder function — to jeers on social media — and pushed De Bruyne ahead into the extra attacking function he’s accustomed to taking part in, and prefers. The outcome was a come-from-behind victory, and the change grew to become the plan from the beginning in opposition to Brazil, resulting in a aim from De Bruyne and the win that despatched the Belgians to St. Petersburg.
“My role changes all the time,” De Bruyne stated Monday, including, “For the semifinal, it can change; I don’t know yet. But I think that’s what it’s going to be.”
How They Got Here
Belgium is the one staff left within the subject with 5 victories on this summer time’s World Cup. France tied Denmark within the group stage, and England misplaced to Belgium there. Croatia has left the sector feeling like winners in each recreation, nevertheless it superior on two straight penalty-kick shootouts, however these have been merely tiebreakers: Both video games have been formally recorded as attracts.
France vs. Belgium: The Goals
France has scored 9 targets and surrendered three. Belgium has scored 14, boosted by massive wins over Panama (Three-Zero) and Tunisia (5-2) within the group stage, nevertheless it hasn’t been almost as stingy on the again. It has surrendered 5 targets in Russia.
Thierry Henry on the Other Side
The presence of the previous France star Thierry Henry on the Belgium bench tonight might be a bit awkward. Henry was a teammate with Deschamps on their nation’s World Cup-winning staff in 1998. Now within the early phases of a training profession, he’s working as an assistant to Belgium’s supervisor, Roberto Martinez. “I was lucky to play with him for two years in the French team,” stated Hugo Lloris. “It is true that it is a little bit peculiar to see him with the Belgian team, but that’s his career and that’s how he’s learning his future career. I think his heart will be split tomorrow, because through everything he remains French.”
How Belgium Was Built
Some see Belgium’s experience to the semifinals as a validation of the way in which it altered its improvement system and groomed its present technology of gamers. As with the reboots of Germany and Spain earlier than it, Belgium’s transformation is now deemed — by some — as worthy of research, and replica. But the presence of Belgium, Croatia, France and England right here, Rory Smith writes, is a reminder to watch out making an attempt to duplicate any mannequin in a unique nation.
Belgium’s Attack vs. France’s Defense
Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne could also be the very best attacking trio left within the match, they usually have requested severe questions of each staff within the knockouts. France’s capability to disrupt them earlier than they get into harmful positions will go an extended solution to retaining them from imposing themselves on the match as we speak. That function typically goes to N’Golo Kanté, a tireless employee. But he’ll want some assist from Paul Pogba and one other robust efficiency from the center-back pair of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti as we speak; stopping Belgium is not going to be a one-man job.
Can Belgium Slow Mbappé and Griezmann?
Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann will pose an attacking take a look at as fearsome because the one Belgium just lately handed in opposition to Brazil. Belgium did that with some sturdy play from Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel in midfield, and France ought to count on a bit extra of the identical as we speak.
France vs. Belgium Top Story Lines
• So most of the matchups as we speak might be acquainted to common watchers of the Premier League: N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba of France vs. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium within the midfield; goalkeeper Hugo Lloris making an attempt to fend off striker Romelu Lukaku; Olivier Giroud probably difficult for headers in opposition to Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. But the membership affiliations are blurred as we speak as nicely: Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris St.-Germain, Monaco and Barcelona all have gamers on each side of this semifinal.
• “I think we know them very well,” France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stated. “But they know us very well.” Said Manager Didier Deschamps: “It’s an advantage on both sides. They can appreciate each other. But during the match, everyone will be on his own side.”
• Belgium is with out Thomas Meunier, an essential (however not essentially flashy) member of its staff. He picked up his second yellow card in opposition to Brazil and is suspended. France will get again Blaise Matuidi after he served his personal yellow-card ban within the quarterfinals.
• Tottenham Hotspur has as many gamers left within the World Cup (9) as all the Bundesliga and yet one more than Italy’s Serie A. Four gamers from Spurs may see motion as we speak: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembélé for Belgium, and Hugo Lloris for France. Belgium’s Nacer Chadli additionally hung out at Spurs.
• France received the World Cup in 1998, and returned to the ultimate in 2006. Belgium is within the semifinals for less than the second time; it misplaced at this stage in 1986.
• Today’s winner faces the England-Croatia winner in Sunday’s ultimate in Moscow. The loser can keep in St. Petersburg, which is able to host the third-place match on Saturday.
• France is the favourite to advance to the ultimate, nevertheless it’s very shut: The bookmakers’ odds translate into France being about 54 p.c possible winner. The bookies have a number of different opinions too: The over/underneath is 2.5 targets. On corners it’s 10. The probably participant to attain the primary aim is Antoine Griezmann of France (6-1), adopted by Romelu Lukaku of Belgium (7-1) and Kylian Mbappe of France (Eight-1).
Some Pregame Reading
• France’s fresh-faced proper again, Benjamin Pavard, has had a robust match and scored a wonderful goal in opposition to Argentina. But his a part of the sector is the place Belgium’s Eden Hazard likes to work, and that might pose his greatest take a look at but.
• Nearly half — 40 of 92 — of the gamers left within the World Cup play for Premier League golf equipment. Jonathan Lieuw seems at what which means, why folks shouldn’t give the league an excessive amount of credit score simply but.
• Shameless flattery, dodgy fluency and heat ovations: Sarah Lyall wrote concerning the wonderful stew and grand theater that’s the World Cup press conference.
• Why does each participant within the World Cup carry his palms to his head after a close to miss? It turns on the market’s a psychological explanation.