France vs Belgium preview, betting tips and prediction
Belgium @ 11/5 with Betfair
A sixth semi-final awaits France after they disposed of Uruguay with minimum fuss. Their opponents were hindered by the absence of Edinson Cavani and quickly set about getting physical with their European counterparts in a game that threatened to spill over at times. However, France’s quality told.
Raphael Varane’s opener was a blow to Uruguay while the second – an Antoine Griezmann effort that went in thanks to a spill from Fernando Muslera – was a mortal blow. They couldn’t recover from that howler and the game petered out, which suited France down to the ground. It allowed them to conserve energy for a semi-final against the most powerful beast in the competition: Belgium.
Brazil found out all about Belgium’s strength, going two goals behind in the opening half-hour. Fans could be forgiven for getting deja vu. It looked like another 7-1 could potentially be unfolding before our eyes. Belgium played with the same focus and desire that Germany did in Belo Horizonte four years ago. No further goals were scored by the Red Devils but the threat never went away. Roberto Martinez had been derided prior to the tournament but his risky formation worked wonderfully here. It took guts to leave three players forward against a Brazil side featuring Neymar and Willian. Glory could await the risk takers yet.
France showed their competency in the win over Uruguay. Although they weren’t up against much (Luis Suarez’s stock has taken a huge hit at this tournament), the likes of Umtiti and Varane deserve credit for shoring up after conceding so many goals and chances against a subpar Argentina side. However, the fact that the Uruguay outfit they beat were also understrength doesn’t prepare them for Belgium. N’Golo Kante has been a key player and will need to be at his best to help stop waves of Belgian attacks. Roberto Martinez sets his side up to attack and they inevitably concede a lot of chances. Kylian Mbappe should get opportunities to add to his tally and could be the hero again for France.
Belgium marked themselves out as the team to beat at this World Cup with their win over Brazil. The front three of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne worked wonders to topple the Selecao. In the end, they won 2-1 but in the early stages it looked as though it could have been a hammering. Vincent Kompany also deserves credit for an inspiring performance at the back, only topped by Thibaut Courtois, who made crucial saves to help Belgium advance. To be fair, it was a terrific team performance. Even the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini had a stellar game. The only worry for Martinez is getting caught out by Mbappe’s raw pace.
Both teams will have full squads to choose from.