The French National team are dreaming of reaching another World Cup final. But could multicultural Belgium put the mockers on that ambition?
It is apt that Belgium, which houses the headquarters of the European Union, possesses a football team epitomizing the concept of international cooperation.
Roberto Martinez, the head coach, is a Spaniard. His main assistant, Graeme Jones, is from England and his forwards’ coach is Thierry Henry, a Frenchman.
The triumvirate have united under the Belgian standard and are two games away from the biggest prize in national team football.
Both France and Belgium were under incredible pressure before the World Cup started. Both sides have talented squads which have both been called ‘golden generations’. Both were expected to get a long way in the tournament and it appears as if both sides are hitting good form at the right time.
France looked ordinary at the start of the tournament narrowly beating Australia and Peru. A draw against Denmark ensured they came top of the group.
But they seemed to kick up a gear during the knockout stages scoring four times against Argentina and then twice against the resilient defence of Uruguay. Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in particular have shown how destructive they can be.
However, there are question marks over their defence. They have big names on paper, like Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, and N’golo Kante, but any team that conceded three times to that Argentina side needs to take a look at their positioning and defensive frailties.
Belgium have also shown defensive issues at times too though. Like France, they have huge names at the back but they conceded twice to Tunisia and twice to Japan, teams that really shouldn’t be scoring against them.
That being said, their offensive talent is really hitting good form right now. Romelu Lukaku looked strong, fast and brilliant against Brazil. Eden Hazard had the ball on a string and helped alleviate pressure beautifully when he was in possession.
And Kevin De Bruyne has continued to show he is one of the best midfielders in the world with his play. His passing is always on point and he is more than capable of finding the net as shown by his stunning strike against Brazil.
France: Hugo Lloris; Lucas Hernandez, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Benjamin Pavard; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe; Olivier Giroud.
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld; Yannick Carrasco, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku .