France will unleash the attacking talents of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against Roberto Martinez’s gifted Belgium side, who have shown the tactical flexibility to adapt their game as per their opponents, when the two teams meets in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday with a place in the World Cup final at stake.
The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to reach the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006.
Belgium will be seeking to break new ground by reaching the final for the first time in their history – they have only reached the semi-finals once before, in 1986.
The winner, who is more than likely to be the hot favourite to lift the World Cup, will face either Croatia or England, who play on Wednesday, in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
With Eden Hazard pulling the strings and Romelu Lukaku providing the firepower, Belgium have what it takes to beat France.
But their secret weapon could be on the sidelines in the shape of one of France’s greatest players of all time, Thierry Henry, who is now assistant to head coach Roberto Martinez.
Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Henry was part of the French squad that won the World Cup on home soil 20 years ago and played 123 times for his country, scoring 51 times.
Now it is his job to help halt the run of his home nation.
Here’s a statistical preview of what promises to be a blockbuster game, starting with their record at the 2018 World Cup so far.
Record at the 2018 World Cup
|Goals For / Against||9 / 4||14 / 5|
| Yellow cards / Red cards||8 / 0||7 / 0|
|Number of players used||21||21|
|Number of goalscorers||4||9|
|Wins / Draws / Losses||4 / 1 / 0||5 / 0 / 0|
- This latest showdown between Belgium and France will be the 74th in a 114-year-old sporting rivalry. The two teams first faced each other in May 1904 in Brussels, drawing 3-3. Their most recent encounter was also a high-scoring affair, with Belgium earning a 4-3 friendly victory in Saint Denis in June 2015, courtesy of a Marouane Fellaini double, a Radja Nainggolan goal and an Eden Hazard penalty, while France’s scorers were Mathieu Valbuena from the spot, Nabil Fekir and Dimitri Payet.
Head to head record
|Goals scored by Fracnce||127|
|Goals scored by Belgium||160|
- The pair have crossed paths three times in the finals of international competitions and France came out on top each time. In their two previous Fifa World Cup meetings, France ran out 3-1 winners in the first round in 1938, whereas in the Play-Off for Third Place in 1986 it took extra time to determine the final result of 4-2.
- The pair also went toe-to-toe in the Uefa European Championship in 1984, when France secured a convincing 5-0 victory in the group round before going on to take the continental title.
- Belgium have won all five of their games in this campaign, setting a national record for consecutive victories in the global showpiece. By contrast, France are unbeaten in their last five World Cup fixtures, having strung together four wins and a draw in this edition. Les Bleus are still some way short of their longest undefeated streak of eight games, which they first achieved between 1986 and 1998 and equalled between 2006 and 2010.
- Kevin De Bruyne’s goal against Brazil in the quarter-finals means that Belgium have scored through nine different players in this edition. The record of ten was set by current opponents France in 1982 and emulated by Italy in 2006.
- This is France’s sixth foray into the World Cup semi-finals (the previous times were in 1958,1982,1986, 1998 and 2006) after an absence of 12 years, whereas Belgium have only made it into the penultimate round once before, back in 1986.
- The Red Devils have featured in five World Cup games that were decided in extra time, winning two, losing two and drawing one (with England in 1954, before penalty shoot-outs were introduced). They have been involved in only one spot-kick duel, outsmarting Spain in the 1986 quarter-finals. France won two of the three World Cup games in which they were taken into extra time, compared with a mixed record (2-2) in penalty shoot-outs.
- France have played one World Cup match on 10 July, losing the Play-Off for Third Place 3-2 against Poland in the 1982 edition.
- The last coach to take a foreign team to the semi-finals of a World Cup was Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari with Portugal in 2006. Roberto Martinez is the first Spanish tactician to achieve the feat.
- This 11th World Cup appearance in France’s dugout makes Didier Deschamps the country’s most experienced coach in the event by number of matches, surpassing Michel Hidalgo and Raymond Domenech.
- Deschamps never lost in three meetings with Belgium as a player, earning two wins (2-0 in 1996, 1-0 in 1998) and one draw (3-3 in 1992) with Les Bleus. However, he is yet to beat the Red Devils as France coach, his two previous attempts producing a 0-0 draw in 2013 and a 4-3 defeat in 2015.
With AFP inputs
Stats courtesy: Fifa.com