World Cup Preview – Semi-Final | France v Belgium

World Cup favourites take on Belgium in the first World Cup semi-final on Tuesday in St Petersburg.

Didier Deschamps is looking to become on the third person in history to both play in a World Cup winning side and coach one, following on from Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany.

Deschamps captained France to World Cup glory on home soil in 1998 – their only triumph to date, although they have now been in the last four on six occasions, making into the final on two occasions so far.

The French coach admits that Belgium pose a hugely difficult task for his side.

“Belgium played a great game against Brazil with a specific game plan. Will they do something similar against us? Probably,” he said.

“We will be ready and will adapt ourselves to Belgium’s organization, whatever it is. I have made sure my players are prepared for any scenario at the beginning of the match and during the match if it changes, but this is not specific to Belgium.”

Belgium have only made the semi-finals once before, in Mexico 1986 but they were defeated by eventual winners Argentina.

Roberto Martinez’s side come into the game having beaten previous favourites Brazil in the last round and the Spaniard admits he will need to see an equally impressive display.

“This group has to play with no fear at all,” Martinez said.

“If we approach this match with fear within us, we will bring ourselves down and we’d be able to do so much less than what we can actually do.

“To play without fear would probably be the one thing which would help us the most.”

One intriguing twist in the game is that Belgium will have Thierry Henry – a French World Cup hero – on their bench, as he is assistant to Martinez.

“I’m pleased for him, he’s someone I really appreciate,” Deschamps said.

“We played together as team-mates and he was much younger and I was at the end of my career. Of course, it is a difficult situation, it really is not easy for him.

“But he did know that, from the time he was joining the management team and becoming assistant to Martinez, that could happen. On the personal front it is with great pleasure that I’m going to see him.”

See below for a preview on the game, including predictions from former England and Tottenham midfielder Andy Gray and our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey and bet365’s Steve Freeth.

France 19:00 Belgium
St Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg


France: Hugo Lloris; Lucas Hernandez, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Benjamin Pavard; Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba; Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe; Olivier Giroud.

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld; Yannick Carrasco, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli; Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku​.

KEY FACT: These two have only met twice at the World Cup, with their last meeting coming in the third-place match at Mexico 1986
Match odds from bet365: FRANCE 6/4 DRAW 23/10 BELGIUM 21/10
bet365 Pick: Belgium to win @21/10
ANDY SAYS: I think Belgium have it in them to get through….1-2
GRAEME SAYS: I have to stay loyal to my picks Belgium, but this could go to extra time before they win…0-1
FOOTBALLIndex – One to follow: Kevin De Bruyne – proved in the semis how good he is, he still has value here

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