FIFA 2018 World Cup: France vs Belgium, Combined XI
FIFA 2018 World Cup: France vs Belgium, Combined XI
The Red Devils have reached this stage after 32 years, but wouldn’t be falling back on the sword as their ‘golden generation’ is gunning for its maiden World Cup glory. Les Blues, on the other hand, are inching ever closer to its second crown and have all the tools in the armor to pull off the feat.
France (19/2 pre-tournament favourites) and Belgium (33/1 favourites to win the World Cup) were the outside favourites in the tournament, but now, one of these will be playing in the showpiece clash this Sunday. Given the sheer number of attacking talents in both camps, this should be a spectacle.
Here’s how they would stack up in a combined line-up featuring the best in each position:
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ is finally proving worth its salt and Courtois has had an important role to play in their run to this stage. The Chelsea shotstopper has proved to be an immense last line of defense, making 18 saves so far, 9 of which came against Brazil alone as the World Cup favourites were restricted to just a solitary strike despite 27 attempts. His goalkeeping nous was in full display when he denied long range efforts from both Coutinho and Neymar.
A strong contender for the Golden Glove award.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
Varane has looked suspect in defense for his club and country in the past, but he’s certainly ironed out the chinks to perform incredibly well here in Russia. His impeccable vision and excellent reading of the game has seen him average almost 7 clearances per game, whilst also using his towering stature to dominate aerially, winning 22 duels – the highest in the World Cup. He also scored the opener against Uruguay with a header to send France on its way.
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany
Another untimely injury threatened to derail his World Cup after he limped off just 15 minutes in Belgium’s last group game against England. But the Manchester City skipper recuperated in time, and was back in the fold for the knockout stages to marshall the backline. He put his best performance so far against Brazil, holding the fort with aplomb and making life difficult for the Brazilian stars from the centre with his imposing presence. He made 2 successful tackles, 2 interceptions and his supreme ability to sniff out danger saw him make 7 clearances on the night.
Centre-back: Toby Alderweireld
He was completely eclipsed by the likes of Lukaku, De Bruyne and Courtois in the stunning quarter-final win over Brazil, but Alderweireld quietly went about his business, forging a sturdy centre-back partnership with Kompany. He won both his defensive aerial duels and also made a successful tackle. But his 10 clearances on the night was the most by any defender in the last 8.
Right midfielder: Marouane Fellaini
Fellaini may have never won over the United fans truly, but his importance to club and country is undeniable. His aerial prowess saw him score the equaliser for Belgium against Japan, and was then rewarded for the same with a starting place against Brazil, against whom he won 7 aerial duels. He proved to be a great protective cover for the backfour by throwing himself in the path of several shots as Brazil were frustrated by the mid block. He also made 2 interceptions and another 3 clearances.
Central midfielder: N’Golo Kante
Kante came roaring out of his defensive midfield role to surge further ahead and feed the attackers with his slick passes. However, he also won the ball back continuously for his side and his 4 interceptions in the game was the joint-highest by a player alongside Diego Godin.
Central midfielder: Paul Pogba
Coming off the back of a turbulent campaign with Manchester United, Pogba has successfully shrugged off all the travails with a string of fine performances and attain his confidence again. He was defensively sound against Uruguay, winning 6 defensive headers and also making 6 clearances. Pogba’s offensive contribution was also unprecedented, working in sync with Mbappe and Griezmann and also help create chances. He made one key pass too.
Left midfielder: Eden Hazard
Hazard has finally rose to the occasion to shine bright on an international stage for Belgium, scoring twice. But his game runs deeper than just the goals. Hazard is the chief when it comes to opening up the defenses and his magisterial dribbling ability has proved to be a defender’s worst nightmare. He completed all 9 of his attempts against Brazil, as Belgium turned towards him when the going got tough through the centre. A frontrunner in the race for the coveted Golden Ball.
Right winger: Antoine Griezmann
Just like the Euro 2016, Griezmann’s World Cup too started off to a whimper, but as we approach the business end of the competition, he is finding his feet again. He’s the joint leading scorer for France with 3 goals, the latest of which came against Uruguay though with a stroke of luck. But he also worked some openings that allowed his attacking counterparts to sneak into, and is also seen helping out in the defense, registering 5 tackles in the last 8 clash.
Left winger: Kylian Mbappe
When the Messi-Ronaldo frenzy of this World Cup ended in the last 16, Mbappe’s commenced, striking twice to send Argentina packing. The 19-year old was on full swing that day, and even if he cut a quieter figure against Uruguay, he’s demonstrated how devastating he can be if given the space and chance. He will certainly look to add to his 3-goal haul against Belgium, who have quite a task at hand on the left flank against this teenage dynamite.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku
If group stages was about his imperious scoring prowess that saw him strike 4 times, then the knockout stages has witnessed a more team-oriented side of his. He’s running at the defenders with incredible pace and also switching to the flanks to create space for others to run into. His best contributions however, have come during the transitions. He ran almost half the length of the field only to make a dummy and allow Chadli to score the winner against Japan, while his ball control and buccaneering run before assisting De Bruyne for the second against Brazil was sheer bliss.