World Cup 2018: France & Belgium set for titanic semifinal clash

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Will Martinez's swash-buckling Belgian side be able to do to France what they did to Brazil?

It promises to be an enthralling match when Belgium take on France at St. Petersburg in the first semifinal of the 2018 World Cup. 

The two teams are on a roll and are unbeaten in the tournament so far. Belgium, in fact, have won all their games so far including a stunning 2-1 win over Brazil in the quarter-finals. France, on the other hand, claimed the scalps of Latin American giants Argentina and Uruguay and look to be peaking at the right time. 

Roberto Martinez's team were forced to dig deep against Japan in the Round of 16, coming back to win after going two goals down. But they shook it off with a brilliant win over Brazil and sent warning signs to the French team. 

With Kevin de Bruyne on song and Eden Hazard playing well, Belgium look a well-balanced outfit. Romelu Lukaku's physique will be put to test against Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti while Martinez is sure to deploy Marouane Fellaini in a destroyer's role, much like he did against Brazil. 

Griezmann - Hazard

The game is also set to witness the battle between two great goalkeepers in Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris. The Belgian No.1 was sensational in the quarter-final against Brazil, pulling off vital saves and Lloris has also contributed with key saves for France. 

Deschamps and Martinez will once again rely on their keepers to become an effective last line of defence. 

France's midfield is another aspect that Belgium will need to be wary of. Paul Pogba has been running the show for the Les Blues with N'Golo Kante's defensive work enabling him to boss the midfield. Blaise Matuidi should return for France after missing the quarter-final win over Uruguay after being suspended. Corentin Tolisso will sit out as a result. 

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We can expect Martinez to pack his midfield to negate the threat of Pogba and co. while remaining rigid at the back. The backline of Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen were solid against Brazil but have their task cut out against Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann who are all intelligent operators in the attacking third. 

What one is sure of is that it will be a spectacle when two teams with superstars of the game go head-to-head for a place in the biggest stage in football. All eyes on St. Petersburg!

 

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