France vs Belgium: 6 key players to watch out for from both sides
Belgium and France face each other at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in today, in what could be an interesting semi-final in the World Cup. No side have faced each other as much as these two European nations – they have played 73 times, with France winning 24 and Belgium 30. However, in the total of 11 competitive games between the two, there are 5 wins for France and 3 for Belgium.
In the World Cups, though, they have met only twice, with France edging out Belgium both times; a 3-1 win in the opening round of the 1938 World Cup and a 4-2 win in extra time in the 3rd place playoff in the 1986 World Cup.
Their most recent encounter was a 2015 friendly held in Paris, where two Marouane Fellaini goals gave Belgium a 4-3 victory. Interestingly, Belgium are currently on an unbeaten run of 24 games in all competition, winning 19 and drawing five.
As the world prepares for a fascinating clash of two of the most talented sides in the tournament, we take a look at six players each from both sides, who will be crucial to the outcome of the game.
France have scored 9 goals, but conceded only 4. They had 56 shots, with 19 of them on target. 4 players have scored all the goals for France, and 4 players have assisted them. France have scored 6 goals from open play and 2 from set pieces. For a team full of superstars, it is hard to pick just 6, however, the following 6 are vital for France
Pavard played 4 games and scored one goal, the excellent strike against Argentina. He covered a total distance of 38.4 Kilometres so far, with 3 attempts on goal. He attempted 201 passes, completing 171 of them. Defensively he was sound, notching up 8 tackles, the highest in his team, and 19 clearances.
He also recovered the ball 17 times. He had 5 deliveries into the penalty area and attempted 8 crosses. His defensive qualities will be tested against Eden Hazard and Pavard will be hoping that he is ready for what could be his most intense game in the tournament so far.
Varane has been a revelation in this World Cup. He started all the games for France, covering a distance of 45 Kilometres and scored the opening goal against Uruguay in another solid display. He had 4 attempts on goal in the tournament so far, with one of them on target.
He is strong on the ball and has attempted 268 passes, the second highest in his team, completing 243 of them. His 25 clearances are the most for both teams and he also has 37 ball recoveries, more than anyone in the Belgium team. He also delivered the ball 3 times into the penalty area.
His partnership with Umtiti has been rock solid and forms the basis of France’s defensive compactness. Lukaku will be his toughest trial so far and how he deals with the Belgian will have a big impact on the result of the game.