Don’t Expect a Drought
The World Cup has whizzed by and it only feels like yesterday that we were watching Russia take apart Saudi Arabia in the opening game. Tonight it’s time for the first semi-final between France and Belgium, and I’ve found something interesting to play.
I had high expectations for this France squad before the tournament and the team we saw in the group stages didn’t seem like the real deal. Despite all that they took seven points and won the group, but I still think Deschamps’ troops should have performed better.
When they get going their offensive play can be brutal
However during the knockout stages we’ve begun to see play worthy of the names we see down on the team sheet. Impressively they’ve navigated their way past a tricky Argentina side and a tough Uruguayan outfit, convincingly knocking out both.
When they get going their offensive play can be brutal, and Mbappé and Griezmann in particular will be dangerous to the Belgian defence. They also have Matuidi back who gives the team a boost, his replacement Tolisso is not of the same class. Otherwise, we can probably expect a similar starting eleven to that we’ve seen from the previous two knockout stage matches.
Possible starting eleven against Belgium:
- Pavard - Varane - Umtiti - Hernandez
- Kanté - Pogba
- Matuidi - Griezmann - Mbappé
It may come as a surprise to those who haven’t been keeping up to date with international football that Belgium have made it to the semi-final, but for the rest of us who have seen them play it’s certainly no surprise. Like France, if you look at the names they have in the squad you’ll understand why they’ve made it this far.
They struck ruthlessly on the counter attack with the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku to terrifying effect
Brazil looked like they could be the sticking point for the Belgians but they made light work of the South Americans. Manager Roberto Martinez executed his tactics perfectly on Friday night in Kazan. He let the Brazilians dictate a certain amount of play, while Belgium absorbed the pressure well. They then struck ruthlessly on the counter attack with the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku to terrifying effect.
Another Belgian who’s reaching peak performance is goalkeeper Courtois who’s been there to save the day on a number of occasions in the not so distant past.
The statistics from the Brazil game speak for themselves with the Brazilians having 57% of the possession and creating 26 chances on goal. Contrast this with 43% of possession to Belgium and their total of 8 chances and you begin to see how ruthless they are.
It wasn’t all down to Belgian brilliance though. An early own goal from Fernandinho gifted them the opportunity to sit low and rely on counter attacking more than they probably would’ve by design.
For their match up against France they’re missing Meunier on the wing, who’ll probably be replaced by Chadli, which isn’t exactly optimal. Otherwise Belgium have a full strength first team line up.
Possible starting eleven against France:
- Alderweireld - Kompany - Vertonghen
- Carrasco - Fellaini - Witsel - Chadli
- De Bruyne - Lukaku - Hazard
I’m agreeing with the market in thinking France are the favourites for this match. If we look at the probable starting elevens they’ll both field, France are pretty much stronger in every position aside from their goalkeeper. You could also argue either way for the attacking three of either team I suppose.
Having said that France should dominate the game in midfield and are a clear attacking threat to Belgium’s sluggishly slow defence. Though to get the job done France will need to keep a check on Belgium’s counter attack, but I reckon Deschamps has taken the Brazilians’ failings into consideration. The French also have two quick centre backs in Varane and Umtiti who are already a clear improvement on their Brazilian counterparts.
Let’s also not forget that Belgium have an advantage in the air with a taller team to France.