Tuesday evening in St. Petersburg is the ultimate do or die moment for France and Belgium as they meet in the first 2018 World Cup Semi Final match. The winner of this game will face the winner of Wednesday’s Croatia v England match to do battle for the World Cup title, but will it be the 1998 champions or the side that has never gone further than this stage that emerges victorious?
We take a look at the first competitive meeting between these sides since the 1986 World Cup when France defeated the Belgians to finish third in Mexico with online sportsbook Intertops.eu to bring you our best World Cup Picks.
Both of these sides arrive at this last four stage match with a fully fit squad to choose from, although after playing so many games in the run up to this vital clash there is always the chance that players may yet be unable to play. Even with full squads to choose from, both managers have tough decisions to make as will Didier Deschamps continue with his defensive strategy allowing Mbappe and Griezmann to attack freely? Will Roberto Martinez opt to keep Nacer Chadli and Maroune Fellaini in the starting XI after helping Belgium past Brazil in the last round?
France have four wins and one draw in Russia this summer which saw them top Group C ahead of Denmark and now become one of the final four sides remaining in this competition. They have played very solidly in defence throughout the tournament as they have kept three clean sheets and they will need to play like this again to contain an exciting Belgian team. The French conceded just one goal in the group stage as Australia scored from the penalty spot in their opener, but a 2-1 win in that match and a narrow 1-0 victory over Peru saw them qualify before resting players and drawing with Denmark.
They clearly needed the respite too as they struggled to contain Argentina in the last 16 stage as their reliable defence faltered. They did triumph 4-3 in that game, but they will certainly be wary of facing another side with pace and power. They edged their match in the Quarter Finals against Uruguay courtesy of a fine Raphael Varane header from Griezmann’s free kick before the Atlético Madrid frontman got on the scoresheet thanks to a goalkeeping error as they triumphed 2-0. We feel that they deserve to be the narrow favourites to win this match, but can is their backline up to containing Lukaku, Hazard and the rest of the Belgian side?
Belgium arrive in St. Petersburg having had a very different World Cup to their opposition so far as they have kept just two clean sheets in their five matches, all of which they have triumphed in. The only sides that they have kept out in Russia so far are the Group G minnows Panama and their fellow World Cup Semi Finalists England, who rested many players in that 1-0 loss which decided first and second spots in the group.
Belgium have shown all facets of their game in the competition so far with them having to dig deep to see off Panama 3-0 in their opener after the match being level at half time and again against Japan in the last 16 stage as they found themselves 2-0 down after 52 minutes and only progressed thanks to an injury time winner from Nacer Chadli in a stunning comeback. They bossed the game against Tunisia as they won 5-2 in the group, edged the game against England in what saw two very changed sides and took their chances against Brazil to make the final four stage as they were helped by a wasteful South American team.
Belgium certainly are showing that they are a complete side and with their 14 goals having come from ten different players (one of which was an own goal) they definitely have goals in them from all over the pitch. Will this team spirit and abundance of creativity guide them past the French?
The last time these two sides met saw the Belgians claim the upper hand as they won 4-3 in Paris in a 2015 friendly match, and with the previous two meetings before that seeing 0-0 draws The Red Devils have not suffered a defeat to Les Bleus since 2004. They have not met in a competitive fixture in more than three decades when both teams were the beaten Semi Finalists in the 1986 World Cup and after a thrilling 2-2 draw in the 3rd/4th place play-off it was France who emerged 4-2 victors after 120 minutes. This followed up nicely to the 5-0 win that the French secured at the European Championships two years earlier, but Belgium will surely be desperate to end this losing streak in competitive games against the favourites to lift the title this summer.
World Cup Semi Final Super Pick:
This match throws together the conservatism of France and attacking football of Belgium at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium, and with Intertops making these two sides first and second in the betting market to win the World Cup both know that victory may well see them lift the World Cup trophy on Sunday. Both sides are renowned for having issues as playing as teams and with some of the Belgian players seemingly refusing to pass to others against Brazil there may be an underlying issue there. This, coupled with their fine defensive performances and thrilling attacking players, certainly makes France the deserved favourites to win this match, but even with their issues this Belgian team has plenty of goals in them.
We feel that the best value bet on this first Semi Final is backing goals, but if you’re looking for something with longer odds we’re also tentatively backing France to reach the World Cup Final within 90 minutes too.
Our best France v Belgium World Cup Semi Finals Picks are: