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What Belgium should worry about playing against France


(L to R) Belgium’s defender Toby Alderweireld, Belgium’s defender Thomas Meunier, Belgium’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium’s defender Dedryck Boyata, Belgium’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Belgium’s forward Eden Hazard listen to their national anthem during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Panama at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 18, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

The World Cup semi-final fixture between France and Belgium is a more tantalising one, as it is an all-European affair. But, be that as it may, the Belgian team who are having a dream world cup campaign absolutely have a lot to worry about their French opponent.

The front line that contains the fine blend of Olivier Giroud’s unpredictability and aerial superiority, Antoine Griezmann’s lethal vision and positioning and Kylian Mbappe’s searing speed is a deadly prospect on a good day.

However’ Les Bleu’s run to the semifinals has not been a roller-costar ride: they have had to surmount the hurdles of difficult oppositions in Argentina and Uruguay convincingly. All thanks to the blistering pace of the aforementioned Kylian Mbappe, who gave a stunning performance against Argentina.

The crunch battle
Despite criticism of not being at his best, Antoine Griezman has shown he has decisive moments in the big games on his feet, while Olivier Giroud looks rather the invincible force in the attack. There is no better bet against him as a permanent decoy and assister, rather than a goal scorer, his knock-downs and flick-ons can punish any defence.

Kompany, whose positioning was somewhat uncertain against Brazil, is particularly prone to getting involved in physical confrontations and leaving space in behind, which means the Giroud vs. Kompany clash might be the game’s pivotal individual battle.

Compact midfield
What comes to mind in this kind of a match is how both teams intend to win the match from the midfield. For France, they have the core of Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, Corentin Tolisso, Blaise Matuidi who have been solid game after game in the competition.

The quarter-final fixture between Belgium and Brazil showed the entire world that, inasmuch as the Belgium side can be quick in attack, they can also be torn apart by a team with a compact midfield. In this case, Belgium will have to rely on counter-attacking opportunities like they did against Brazil mostly in the second half when they were pegged back.

Decent defence
Without mincing words, both teams have not shown the best of character when called upon in defensive duties. However, France seems to have a decent defence. Although it can be shaky as seen in the game against Argentina, it is better in comparison to that of Belgium who were consistently conceding chances against Brazil whose conversion rate was below par on the day.

The French defence allowed a goal in during the group stages and subsequently conceded 3 against Argentina in the round of 16, followed by a clean sheet against Uruguay in the quarter-final stage.

Belgium on the other side conceded two goals in the group stage and two goals against Japan and one against Brazil, bringing the number of goals conceded to five goals conceded in five matches, with a ratio of conceding in every game.

Deschamp’s tactical abilities
Having played with a 3-4-3 formation in Belgium’s previous matches, Roberto Martinez surprisingly switched to a 4-3-3 with Kevin De Bruyne as a false nine, with Eden Hazard on the left, while Romelu Lukaku played from the right for the 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Brazil.

The system gave Belgium an incomplete performance. The formation made the midfield open for the team’s opponent to dominate the midfield as well as making the defence vulnerable to the Brazilians.

Again, Martinez faces a formation dilemma ahead of the semifinal, complicated by his only proper wing-back, Thomas Meunier, being ruled out through suspension and other attacking options like Nacer Chadli and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco as the alternatives.

The tactical genius of the French coach behind the power of the transitional play of the French seen in display against Argentina is something for the Belgians to worry about. Deschamp, being a world cup winner and a better-experienced manager will be a major factor in determining the outcome of the match against the Martinez-tutored team.

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