In Summary
  • Experience shows that unlikely heroes usually emerge in such tight fixtures, and my gut feeling tells me, France’s Olivier Giroud, could be provide the X-factor in this semifinal. Remember he’s yet to get on the score sheet at this year’s World Cup.

These are two evenly matched sides with match winners littered all over the field. France so far have been playing within themselves and doing just enough to win games. While Belgium’s games have produced so much drama especially their two knock out games thus far.
Both teams can be devastating on the counter-attack; Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann plus Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bryne, for France and Belgium respectively, they possess that can execute.
The midfield: This is where this tie will be won or lost.

(A) France. As expected, Les Bleus will welcome back Blaise Matuidi from suspension, to partner N’golo Kante. These two were excellent as they worked in tandem partnership to nullify Lionel Messi. They will be relied upon once again, to ‘police’ and shackle Belgium’s Eden Hazard. So don’t expect the kind of freedom that Hazard and De Bryne, enjoyed against Brazil to happen in this game. Kante can run all day without tiring.
Too often in the Brazil game, Hazard found himself in one-on-one situations against Brazil’s full backs. And it’s in such situations where Hazard thrives most. France won’t allow their full backs to be isolated against Hazard.

(B) Belgium. It’s a case of whether they keep Axel Witsel in partnership with Maraoune Fellaini in central midfield, or change it around, once again. They worked well together in the game against Brazil.
Belgium did well in dispatching Brazil in the quarter-finals and are rightly earning all the plaudits.
But France, too, have already taken care of Argentina and Uruguay, two dangerous opponents, and so will be quietly confident of their chances in this semi final.

X-factor: Experience shows that unlikely heroes usually emerge in such tight fixtures, and my gut feeling tells me, France’s Olivier Giroud, could be provide the X-factor in this semifinal. Remember he’s yet to get on the score sheet at this year’s World Cup.

*The writer is a three-time winner of the Ugandan League with SC Villa and played in two continental finals (1991 & 1992)