The FIFA World Cup 2018 has been anything but predictable—expectations have been defied, and sheer brilliance has been demonstrated by unlikely contenders. And now, the saga inches closer to an end as the semi-finals orchestrate a showdown between France and Belgium tonight, July 10, and England and Croatia tomorrow, July 11.
Belgium made history when they defeated the five-time winner Brazil after a gripping clash in the quarters, which led them into the semi-finals for the first time in 32 years. The flair and fire of the team was highlighted as Fernandinho and Bruyne scored the winning goals in the first half of the match itself; to be fair, the former’s goal wasn’t an intentional one, as can be surmised.
After putting up a spectacular show in the Round of 16 against Argentina, France continued its strong opposition against Uruguay in the quarter-finals. What awaited was a shining display of defence and a stellar performance all around. Varane and Griezmann clinched the spotlight, with the latter also being elected the Man of the Match.
The Red Devils gear up to fight in what is being called their best major tournament since 1986. The semi-final will also mark the suspension of Thomas Meunier, as he sits this out after picking a second booking in the previous game. The replacement will call for a shift in approach for Belgium to tackle the 2016 Euro Cup winners. Having been the most radiant team till now, Belgium have experience and odds on their side.
France’s flair for mild aggression whilst putting up a united front has worked in the previous matches, and the spotlight is on star player Griezmann. France face Belgium for the third time in World Cup history, having previously fought for the third place in Mexico, 1986.
With a spectacular record to boast of by both teams, France and Belgium have a challenging road ahead. An hour and a half of football (or, perhaps, more) awaits as the two teams battle it out to be in contention for the gold or scramble along to pursue the third place.
France: Hugo Lloris; Lucas Hernandez; Samuel Umtiti; Raphael Varane; Benjamin Pavard; Ngolo Kante; Paul Pogba; Blaise Matuidi; Antoine Griezmann; Kylian Mbappe; Olivier Giroud.
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Nacer Chadli; Toby Alderweireld; Vincent Kompany; Jan Vertonghen; Axel Witsel; Yannick Carrasco; Marouane Fellaini; Kevin De Bruyne; Romelu Lukaku; and Eden Hazard.