5. Restrict the French fullbacks:
Both Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez are quite adventurous while going forward and helping their teammates in the attack. This is something worth noting as both the fullbacks tend to provide good width to the already deadly French attack. For Belgium to contain France, it is necessary that both Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco/Nacer Chadli make sure that the French fullbacks aren’t allowed much room in the Belgium half. On the other hand, the same thing can be exploited by Belgium to hurt France. We have seen Antoine Griezmann addressing their fullbacks to stay back when they are leading and there’s a good reason why he says so. At times, both Pavard and Hernandez are guilty of being committed more than needed, exposing France on the wings in the counter. Roberto Martinez will surely target this and use as a ploy to do some damage to the French.
4. Compact performance from the three center backs:
Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, and Jan Vertonghen possess a lot of experience between the three of them. Any team would be blessed to have their presence at the back and Roberto Martinez will surely relish Kompany being back for the rest of the tournament. But they have a huge task ahead of them as we have seen handling the French attack has not at all been easy. The likes of Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, and Kylian Mbappe have a good chemistry between them and containing them is going to be tricky. The Belgium center backs will have to be at their very best to make sure the French forwards don’t have a good time against them. It is best that the three of them stay compact and negate the threat possessed by the French forwards.
3. Marouane Fellaini should repeat his master-class in the midfield:
The Manchester United midfielder recently signed a new contract with the Red Devils and while it didn’t go down well with many of the United fans, Fellaini surely has given them to believe in him. The former Everton midfielder was very influential coming off the bench against Japan not only by scoring the equalizer but entirely changing the tempo of the game in Belgium’s favor. To add to that, Fellaini was outstanding against Brazil in his first start this World Cup. His presence in the midfield was not only physically problematic for Brazil but a big hurdle for the Selecao in going forward. That being said, his battle in the semifinals is against his United teammate Paul Pogba and Chelsea man N’golo Kante. Both the French midfielders have been very good this tournament and it will take some performance from Fellaini to boss the midfield against France like he did against Brazil. Alongside Alex Witsel, Fellaini will have to do well against Kante and Pogba to provide stability for Belgium in the heart of the midfield.
2. Unleash both Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne:
One of the key factors in Belgium’s success against Brazil was the freedom given to Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard by Roberto Martinez. It is no secret that both of these players are extremely dangerous when given the license to go all guns blazing in the attack. And that is what happened against Brazil. Both Hazard and De Bruyne looked dangerous while going forward. De Bruyne’s goal showed exactly how lethal he can be in front of the goal. As far as Eden Hazard is concerned, he has already had a fabulous tournament leading the Belgium attack with his twisting and turning and amazing skills on the ball. There’s no doubt that France are going to find it very difficult to restrict Hazard and De Bruyne if they are allowed the freedom and space like they had against Brazil.
1. Pass it on to the Big Rom:
Romelu Lukaku has been giving some world-class performances this World Cup. May it be with his goals or his assists or his runs with the ball or with his hold up play, Lukaku has been super impressive. His dummy against Japan for the third goal spoke volumes of his awareness and unselfish nature in front of the goal. His run against Brazil for the second goal proved that Lukaku is not just your typical striker but a complete forward. Against Brazil, Lukaku more than often drifted on the right wing to allow De Bruyne and Hazard take center stage and the same can be expected in the semi-finals. The Manchester United striker has done every possible thing right in the World Cup and it is only right that Belgium try to bring him into the game more than often to be effective and efficient in front of the goal. Lukaku has been the difference maker frequently for Belgium and Roberto Martinez will look upon him to do the same against France come the semifinal on Tuesday.Published 10 Jul 2018, 03:19 IST