FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from France vs Belgium, 1-0

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from France vs Belgium, 1-0

by Sajeesh Soman / 8 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from France vs Belgium, 1-0


France marched to a third final of the last six editions after a Samuel Umtiti header early in the second-half earned a 1-0 win over Belgium in the first semi-final.


Les Blues will now face either England or Croatia in the showpiece game in Moscow on Sunday, as the golden generation bid for the country’s second world title.


The major takeaways:


#1 France are favourites in the finals


France were 19/2 pre-tournament favourites coming into Russia. With all the odds stacked in favour of the perennial biggies such as Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain et al, Les Blues appeared to be the underdogs in comparison considering the inexperience in the side despite the youthful exuberance. But with all the top shouts biting the dust earlier than expected, France are now the clear favourites in the finals, regardless of whom they face.


Despite not playing a particularly attractive brand of football, Deschamps’ swashbuckling side have taken their chances clinically. And as witnessed in today’s game, as well as in the last 8, the French defense too, is becoming hard to beat while Hugo Lloris has proved to be an incredible last line of defense capable of remarkable saves.


Without ever hitting the top gear, Les Blues have comfortably sailed through to the finals, overcoming the likes of Uruguay and Argentina. But they merit the place, and have every reason to believe they can go all the way this Sunday.


#2 Martinez’s Dembele gamble falls flat


One notable inclusion in today’s lineup was that of Moussa Dembele, who started on the left of a 4-man midfield with Dries Mertens dropping to the bench. Manager Roberto Martinez took a gamble with the move, and it fell flat as the Tottenham star offered little to nothing in the attack. He was involved in breaking France’s play, but with cynical fouls and tackles. Yet, it was startling to see him escape a red that he very much warranted in the first-half itself.


After Belgium fell behind, Martinez was quick to sub him off for Mertens, who almost made an immediate impact when his superb cross inside the area went agonizingly begging. Nevertheless, the Napoli star was a far more imposing presence down the right than Dembele ever was. The Red Devils looked livelier with him pulling the strings as Mertens created plenty of chances and also laid one key pass.


#3 Mbappe really is something special


He did not get on the scoresheet, but Mbappe’s imprints were all over the game. The 19-year old sensation once again lit up the duel with his electrifying speed as Belgium had a hard time dealing with his mazy runs. His confidence on the ball is supreme; something that belies his age while his excellent ball control on the edge of the area before a cheeky backpass for Giroud was a thing of beauty.


Mbappe didn’t get a shot on target, but he completed 22 of his 28 attempted passes and also 7 of his 15 take-ons. He also created 6 chances. He was the best player on the field and it speaks volumes about his prodigious talent when considered all of this without making a single attempt at goal!


It’s so easy to forget amid all the frenzy that this is only his first international tournament with France. But he isn’t done yet. Watch out for him in the finals.


#4 Giroud did his all, but still no shot on target


It wasn’t only Mbappe who couldn’t muster a shot on the night. Giroud was frustrated in goal too, but this is a starkly different case. The former Arsenal hitman has been trying his luck right from day one, but to no success. He is yet to get a shot on target in seven hours of gametime in this World Cup, let alone score a goal.


The Frenchman was provided with 2 decent chances in the first half; his shot lacked conviction in the first attempt while his second one was a header with his backs to the wall. He could only sail it just wide off the post with such an awkward move. Mbappe’s trickey right after the hour mark following a superb move by France gifted him with yet another opportunity, but this time, he struck it painfully wide off the past with only Courtois to beat.


Giroud made the joint most attempts at goal in the game with 6, but 4 of them were off target and 2 brilliantly blocked. He was put out of his misery in the final 10 minutes of the game as Deshamps subbed him off.


While France are just one more win away from clinching the World Cup, Giroud’s frustrating form is one of the only few concerns ahead of the showpiece clash.


#5 Courtois and Lloris shine in goal


We’ve already witnessed some amazing goalkeeping duels in the competition, but after the first semi-final, we have a new one making its way into the montage. Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris are two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League who’ve contested fiercely with their respective clubs sides on many occasions before. But the meeting in the semi-final was the most marquee one yet, and both pulled off incredible saves in goal.


Lloris was tested just thrice, but all three saves were absolutely vital in denying the Belgians. The best one though, came in the 20th minute when he denied his Spurs teammate Alderweireld with an amazing diving attempt to parry his shot for a corner as Belgium came agonizingly close to finding the breakthrough. Just minutes later, it was Courtois’ time to shine when he stuck his leg out to deflect Pavard’s attempt from the flank on for a corner kick.


When France pushed for another one in the few minutes of the match, the Chelsea custodian stood tall though there was nothing he could do about Umtiti’s header early on.


Even though Lloris had the last laugh, it was a fascinating goalkeeping duel that managed to garner attention and deservedly, the plaudits in a game that was all about the attacking riches in the sides.


Also, do check out our free bets, daily betting tips and tournament predictions while you have the best tips getting lined up for you.





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