France 1 – 0 Belgium The 1st Semifinal match of the FIFA World Cup 2018 sees two giants of European Football face each other, as France go against the ever-improving Belgium side. Date : 10th July 2018 Time : 11:30 PM (IST) Venue : Krestovsky Stadium Two of the pre-tournament favourites go head to head in undoubtedly the biggest match of the tournament so far, with both being in brilliant form. FIFA World Cup Qualification France had a decent qualifying phase, topping a tricky group also including Sweden and The Netherlands, eventually finishing 4 points above both of them. Draws against Luxemborg and Belarus, however, were disappointing, and Didier Deschamps’ men would be looking to improve to live up to the tag of pre-tournament favourites. Belgium dominated their way to World Cup qualification, scoring a record 43 goals while conceding only 6. Though they were placed in relatively easy group with Bosina – Herzegovina and Greece their only real challengers, The Red Devils delivered a strong statement of intent that their ‘Golden Generation’ is more than ready to live up to that tag. They won 9 matches and drew one to Greece, with Lukaku leading the way with 11 goals and Eden Hazard in stupendous form himself. Team Form Before The Tournament France have been in confident form in recent times, with 3 big wins in a row against Italy, Ireland and Russia. A rare 3-2 defeat to Colombia was preceded by an entertaining 2-2 draw with defending World Champions Germany, proving that this new young crop of French footballers have what it takes to match with the best in the world. Belgium are unbeaten in their last 4 games, as Roberto Martinez seems to have gotten the perfect formula for all their big name players to gel. Big wins against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Costa Rica proved their potent attack can be devastating, while a 0-0 draw against Portugal was a good test for their defence. France and Belgium in the World Cup So Far France were handed a relatively straightforward opening fixture against comparative minnows Australia. However, it was anything but straightforward, as the Kangaroos brought their A game to the field, and gave France a royal scare. Les Bleus needed a fortunate deflected striker from Paul Pogba in the dying minutes of the game to finally get over the finishing line. They beat Peru by a narrow margin in their second game, and did not look very convincing overall. In the third game again, France were far from dominant, as Paul Pogba was rested. They couldn’t get past a resilient Danish side and had to settle for a draw. While their group stage games lacked goals, all that changed with a memorable round of 16 clash against Argentina, which saw 7 goals scored between the sides, as France hung on to a 4-3 victory. In their quarterfinal match against the impressive Uruguay, France were dominant from the start, as their opponents were weakened by Cavani’s injury. They emerged as comfortable 2-0 winners. Belgium were dominant as expected against Panama, with Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne eventually stepping up to assist Romelu Lukaku. The defence, along with Thibaut Courtois, is also looking confident and this bodes well for the side for the games ahead. They went on to record two more impressive victories over Tunisia and England to complete a perfect record in the group stages. In one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament, Belgium came back from 0-2 down to Japan to win the game 3-2 with an injury time winner. They next faced Brazil in probably their biggest international match in history, and an incredibly fiery performance in the first half from all their big players saw them win this match 2-1. Head To Head Record These two nations have met 19 times before, with France winning 7 times and Belgium winning 5 of those matches. Team News Along with Spain, France have dropped some of most high profile players in the world, to the shock and dismay of many fans. Manchester United’s mercurial winger Antony Martial and FC Bayern’s Kingsley Coman could not find a space in the final 23 man squad. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema was excluded as expected, but an even bigger omission was that of Arsenal’s new striker Lacazette, while the player he essentially replaced at the club i.e. Olivier Giroud being selected instead. Dimitri Payet also lost the race against time to be fit for the tournament. Belgium have one of the most formidable starting lineups in the tournament, with defensive cover cited as their only weakness. A major shock was the exclusion of AS Roma’s combative midfielder Radja Nainggolan from the final 23 man squad, a decision which forced the player to take immediate retirement from international football and sent shockwaves down the European football circuit. Belgium would be happy to have Michy Batshuayi back from a lengthy injury though. Players To Watch Out For When it comes to France, the spotlight will firmly be on their number 10 Antoine Griezmann, who won the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball at Euro 2016, to prove that he can elevate his game when it comes to playing for his nation. Premier League midfield enforcers Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante will be looking to live up to the hype and form a formidable partnership in the middle. This could also be Ousmanne Dembele’s chance to announce himself at the biggest stage of them all. Belgium have an abundance of world class talent to choose from, none more so than Chelsea’s mercurial forward Eden Hazard. Widely considered as one of the best players in the world, this could finally be Hazard’s golden chance to prove that he is on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo. Kevin De Bruyne, arguably the Premier League’s best player last season will be pulling the strings in midfield, while Manchester United’s striker Romelu Lukaku would be gunning for the Golden Boot, hoping to overtake Harry Kane. France Vs Belgium Betting Odds And Key Statistics France are slight favourites to win this game, however, both these sides scored 6 and 5 goals in their 2 knockout games so far, while conceding 3 goals each. Thus, we expect there to be plenty of goals and advise betting on there to be more than 2.5 goals in this match as well as on both teams to score. This is Belgium’s 13th World Cup appearance. Antoine Griezmann was the top scorer at the Euro 2016 campaign, and betting on him to open the scoring in this match would be a good idea. Similarly, Lukaku has been amongst the goals as well, with 4 to his name already. Kylian Mbappe to score anytime is also a bet we recommend, as the pacy teenager would be looking to exploit the lack of pace in Belgium’s ageing defence. Belgium won their first 4 games at the 2014 World Cup before being eliminated by Argentina in the quarterfinal. They would be looking to reach their first ever final this time. Predicted Result While France are slight favourites, we expect this match to be full of goals, and drama as well. A high scoring draw is on the cards, where the experience and winning mentality of players like Eden Hazard may just help Belgium to cross the line in extra time. Our Predicted Scoreline : France 2-2 Belgium (Belgium to win after extra time).