Two of Europe’s heavyweights meet in Saint Petersburg tonight as France and Belgium go head to head for a place in the World Cup final.
France are here after seeing off Argentina and Uruguay in the knockout stages with Kylian Mbappe continue to rise as one of the games ascending stars. Belgium have moved through the gears in Russia with the performance to dump Brazil out last time out one of the very best of the last three weeks.
The 2018 World Cup will definitely be won by a European nation, with six sides from the same continent left in the tournament after Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 and France cruised past Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals.
And with England and Croatia left on the other side of the draw, the conquerors of Tuesday’s semi-final between Red Devils and Les Bleus will be considered favourites to win the biggest prize in football.
France and Belgium have a long history, facing each other 73 times.
France have won 24 of those meetings, but Belgium have recorded 30 victories, with 19 draws between them.
The two teams have not met in a tournament since the third-place play-off match at the World Cup in 1986, which France won 4-2 after extra-time.
Aside from the suspended Thomas Meunier, Roberto Martinez will be tempted to stick with the same XI which beat Brazil 2-1, with Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini starting against the Selecao.
As for France, Didier Deschamps will have plenty of options and may also stick
after seeing Les Bleus easily beat Uruguay 2-0 with a solid defensive display.
Key battles/Star men
TEEN sensation KylianMbappe is France’s main man.
And he will fancy his chances against Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco on the left, with Jan Vertonghen covering behind.
Belgium’s hopes will rest with their front three of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin DeBruyne.
French midfielder N’Golo Kante will need to be at his best to cut off the supply line to the Red Devils’ forwards, not least when they counter attack.
Likely line-ups and Team Talk
BLAISE MATUIDI is back from suspension and should replace Corentin Tolisso.
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Pogba, Kante; Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi; Giroud.
BELGIUM have no fresh injury concerns but Meunier is suspended so Carrasco should come back in.
Marouane Fellaini will keep his place, meaning Dries Mertens again misses out.
Belgium (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Chadli, Fellaini, Witsel, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.
The stat that matters
BELGIUM are unbeaten in 24 games since losing against Spain in Martinez’s first match in charge.