It’s been a wild World Cup featuring plenty of upsets, but in the end, a France vs. Belgium semifinal is not all that much of a surprise. Before the tournament, both sides were mentioned among the potential winners, though perhaps not as often as the likes of Brazil or Germany. Both sides have an extravagant amount of young attacking talent: Kylian Mbappe, at just 19, has been spectacular, while Romelu Lukaku has been more or less unstoppable up front for the Belgians.
This one could be a classic.
What to watch for: For both teams, the weak point is probably coaching, which is an odd thing to say at this stage of the tournament. For Les Bleus, one gets the sense that Didier Deschamps is unwilling to trust the spectacular array of attacking talent he has, or to lean on world-class defensive midfielder N’golo Kante. France plays a more conservative brand of soccer than is necessary for them to succeed, and against this Belgian team, that caution might see them defending for longer spells than they should.
On the other side, Roberto Martinez has often ignored tactical orthodoxy, or even just good common sense. Even after watching an early 2-0 lead become 2-1 against Brazil, he waited to reinforce his midfield until the 87th minute (and only used 2 subs despite his side tiring) and has only given Moussa Dembele 2 appearances in the whole tournament. Whereas Deschamps appears to be over-coaching his team, Martinez appears to be putting his best talent on the field and letting the chips land where they may.
Location: Krestovsky Stadium (Saint Petersburg)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm Eastern
Referee: Andres Cunha (Uruguay)
Available TV: Fox, Telemundo
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Telemundo
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.