There will be no better story to write for the Belgian football players than to write about reaching the World Cup final for the first time in their history. Years of promise and expectations did them fewer favours. And the players are taking it seriously this time around. Because of the experience the players have garnered over the years playing in some of the biggest leagues in the world. Players with huge talent graduate from their homeland to become future superstars elsewhere. And it happens every year to almost all of their players. Big Spanish or English clubs snap up talented Belgian youngsters while honing them to become the players they are expected to be. The likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, etc. are hugely benefitting from it. And it is the same for the Belgium football too.
Whereas Belgian players test their skills to improve their game in big football leagues around the world, the same can also be said for the French football team players (albeit only in some cases). The likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, left their country early to become the superstars that they are now. And along with them, most of their teammates play for some of the biggest clubs in the world at the moment. So, they are always expected to perform in the international stage. As happened during the Euro Cup 2016 in their homeland, the huge expectations from their fans did them no good. While this year, we can see a different France team from two years ago. The confidence in their forwards, along with the hardworking midfield and defence is leaving their opponents look miserable. Possibly, Didier Deschamps has finally been able to mastermind a charge towards the top.
France Team analysis and stats
Attack seems to be the best form of defence for Didier Deschamps’ team in the knockout matches in this World Cup. The French team scored six and two goals against Argentina and Uruguay respectively. And with the attacking talents in their disposal, we can possibly hope to witness a high scoring match. With Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe scoring one-third of Frances’ total goals in this world cup, they will surely want to carry on their form against the Belgians.
There will also be the talk of the French midfielders having a brilliant tournament as both Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante were sublime in midfield coming into the semi-final. While the onus will be on them to perform against the resolute Belgian team, especially Paul Pogba, who will be desperate to perform on the big stage after a very uneasy 2017-18 season for Manchester United. The fact that N’golo Kante is running the defensive midfield position all by himself will help Paul Pogba in making useful contributions during their semi-final match.
With France winning all but one match so far in this World Cup, there will be added confidence of defeating the two big teams in the knockout stages during the semi-final. Also the fact that France have never lost a World Cup match against their neighbours Belgium will give the French players extra motivation.
Belgium team analysis and stats
The Belgium team will be hoping to emulate their success in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where they lost in the semi-finals to a certain Diego Maradona’s team Argentina. So, they do not have the most celebrated World Cup history unlike their opponents in the semi-final. The only team left in the tournament with wins in all of their matches during the regulation time, the Belgians will come into the match with brimming confidence. Also with fourteen goals scored so far, most in this World Cup, they will surely want to put the game to bed early in the match (just ask Brazil).
The experience will be crucial for the Belgium team to progress. They are the team with most players (15) returning from the 2014 World Cup quarter-final heartbreak in Brazil. With Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, etc. all central players in both the World Cups. After coming through an excellent debut season with Manchester United, the onus will be on Romelu Lukaku to carry on the form. And with four goals already (second on the scoring charts), he will desperately want to finish as the leading goal scorer. Also with Hazard on brilliant form, there is no doubt that Belgium will be the team to find the back of the net easily.
France and Belgium are very familiar rivals, having played each other 73 times in history. But it is the Belgians who have a better head to head record, having won 30 to the French’s 24. While their last match ended in a 4-3 win for Belgium. So the onus will be on Belgium to deliver their long-standing promise of having a golden generation team.
Although the stats will be of little matter to both the teams heading into the semi-final, there is a hope that we can witness a high scoring match with both teams high on goal scoring confidence. While it is rare to witness a high scoring World Cup semi-final, though it will be exciting to see two brilliant teams going for the World Cup glory.Published 09 Jul 2018, 19:15 IST