France and Belgium are ready to compete in their biggest game this decade, and the ultimate place in the World Cup Final will be decided by these two critical battles.
France and Belgium will go head to head in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-final in Saint Peterburg, with both competing for the ultimate prize, a place in the Final. Both teams have been deserving of a home in this semi-final after battling some of the most challenging opponents, but here they are, all set to play one of the biggest games of the tournament so far.
France had shown some patchy form early on, but grew into the tournament and look like a cohesive unit, as their attackers began to fire on all cylinders. France’s defence has built into the competition after an excellent display against Uruguay in the quarterfinal. France are the only outright favourites so far to reach this stage.
Belgium on the other hand, have been the firebrand team of this World Cup, winning each of their five games at the tournament. Their biggest test was in the quarterfinals against heavy favourites Brazil, who they dispatched with aplomb, to make their way into the semi-finals and now eye a place in the Final.
The following two battles will prove crucial in determining who bags a place in the Moscow final.
Eden Hazard vs Raphael Varane
While we could safely point it as Eden Hazard against the entire French defence, Raphael Varane will be the one who will be tasked with the job of marking the Belgian captain. Hazard has had an explosive tournament so far, and he is the big game player France should be worried about.
Against Brazil, Hazard recorded 10 successful take-ons out of ten, a perfect statistic, something that has never happened at a World Cup game since 1966, and this should definitely worry Varane. Hazard is the leader of this Belgian golden generation who are making their mark on the biggest stage, but the French are no less.
Raphael Varane scored a brilliant header against Uruguay and then protected the lead against the likes of Luis Suarez & Co. to register a clean sheet for his side. Against Belgium, he will have to bring his A-game out, and his experience in playing some crucial games for his club Real Madrid will have to come in handy if he and his defence are to have a chance against Hazard and this Belgian attack.
Kylian Mbappe vs Jan Vertonghen
On the one hand, we have the teenage sensation from PSG who has taken the World Cup by storm. His two strikes and overall performance against Argentina in the Round-of-16 clash set the tone for his attacking prowess early on. But, now he has to prove, he too can be the big game player France might need against the Belgians.
Overall, he has made the right side of attack his own and will surely torment the Belgian defence with his pace and trickery; more so, he is a clinical finisher too. But standing in his way is the experience of Jan Vertonghen, who has so far marshalled this Belgian defence with excellent results.
Vertonghen is no stranger to big game situations and has the required experience to stop the likes of any top quality attacking talent. He did so well against Brazil in the quarterfinals and restricted their free flow attack with his stubbornness in defence. Against Mbappe, he faces a different challenge, but nothing he won’t be ready for.