France, world champions in 1998, are slight favourites to go through according to most bookmakers, but Belgium tried to step up their game against these particular European rivals, if history is anything to go by.
Roberto Martinez’s swashbuckling Belgium side head into Tuesday’s semi-final with familiar foes France as the World Cup’s leading scorers, but their old rivals have evolved as the tournament has progressed and will also be full of confidence.
Belgium have scored 14 goals in five matches and were hugely impressive in their 2-1 quarter-final victory over Brazil, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne combining to devastating effect to oust the five-times world champions.
Slow starters France ends World Cup finals Journey for Belgium with lone goal
In contrast, France sleep-walked through the group stages, eking out wins over Australia and Peru before a stultifying 0-0 draw with Denmark has shattered the World Cup finals dream for their rivals Belgium who was assisted in coaching today by one of their all time champions striker, Thierry Henry.
Their early struggles had ‘Les Bleus’ being written off in some quarters of the first half, but all that changed when Samuel Umtiti’s header went straight into the net at the 51st minute giving France an early lead in the second half.
Tuesday’s clash in St Petersburg had all the makings of a classic, fans and viewers were treated to the sight of two wonderfully attacking teams going toe-to-toe.
France’s 19-year-old rising star Kylian Mbappe was a constant threat going forward, while midfielder Paul Pogba produced a performance described as “immense” by former England captain Rio Ferdinand.
Football-loving French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian King Philippe were watching the game from the stands, along with Rolling Stones front-man Sir Mick Jagger.
Earlier in an interview, France defender Benjamin Pavard has said “It’s a super exciting game with great players on both sides.” “It’s going to be a man’s match and we will have to step up.” He really meant that step up at the end of the game.