A capsule look at the France-Belgium World Cup semifinal
A capsule look at Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal between France and Belgium in St. Petersburg, Russia (2 p.m. EDT, 9 p.m. local):
WHY FRANCE WILL WIN
Kylian Mbappe, just 19, has been the most dynamic player in the tournament, and Belgium’s defenders have struggled at times.
WHY BELGIUM WILL WIN
Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are a more potent offensive trio than any other France has faced.
France: 4-2-3-1 – Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Kante, Pogba; Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi; Giroud.
Belgium: 3-4-2-1 – Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Chadli/Dendoncker, Witsel, De Bruyne, Carrasco/Chadli; Mertens, E.Hazard, Lukaku.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Andres Cunha of Uruguay was assigned to referee the match after working France’s opening 2-1 win over Australia and Spain’s 1-0 victory over Iran in the group stage. He awarded France a penalty kick in the game against Australia after a video review of a tackle from behind by Joshua Risdon on Antoine Griezmann, who converted for a 1-0 lead. Cunha disallowed a goal by Iran’s Saeid Ezatolahi after an assistant referee and the video assistant signaled the player was offside.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
France won its only World Cup title at home in 1998. In previous semifinals, Les Bleus lost 5-2 to Brazil in 1958, lost to West Germany on penalty kicks in 1982 after wasting a 3-1 extra-time lead, beat Croatia 2-1 in 1998 on a pair of Lilian Thuram goals and beat Portugal 1-0 in 2006 on a Zinedine Zidane penalty kick.
Belgium has reached the semifinals for the second time. The Red Devils lost to Argentina 2-0 in 1986 in Mexico as Diego Maradona scored two goals.
vs. Australia (2-1): Griezmann (58-pk), own goal (81)
vs. Peru (1-0): Mbappe (34)
vs, Denmark (0-0)
vs. Argentina (4-2): Griezmann (13-pk), Pavard (57), Mbappe (64, 68)
vs. Uruguay (2-0): Varane (40), Griezmann (61)
vs. Panama (3-0): Mertens (47), Lukaku (69, 75)
vs. Tunisia (5-2): E.Hazard (6-pk, 51), Lukaku (16, 45 3), Batshuayi (90)
vs. England (1-0): Januzaj (51)
vs. Japan (3-2): Vertonghen (69), Fellaini (74), Chadli (90 4)
vs. Brazil (2-1): own goal (13), De Bruyne (31)
HEAD TO HEAD
France has won 24 of 73 meetings since 1904, Belgium has won 30 and there have been 19 draws. Of 11 competitive matches, Les Bleus have won five, lost three and drawn three. France routed Belgium 5-0 at Nantes in the group stage of the 1984 European Championship as Michel Platini scored a hat trick, then won 4-2 in the third-place game of the 1986 World Cup. Emile Veinante scored in the first minute of France’s 3-1 win in Paris in the round of 16 at the 1938 World Cup.
French midfielder Blaise Matuidi returns after serving a one-game suspension.
Right back/midfielder Thomas Meunier will miss the match after receiving a yellow card in the 14th minute of Belgium’s opener against Panama for fouling Jose Rodriguez and another in the 71st minute of the quarterfinal win over Brazil for fouling Neymar. Nacer Chadli could switch flanks and replace him, with Yannick Carrasco starting on the left, or Leander Dendoncker could start on the right flank.
Belgium: ”I hope everybody in Belgium realized that this generation is special, and everything they did is to make them extremely proud.” – coach Roberto Martinez.
France: ”We’re not scared of anyone. We’ve been confident from the start and we’re not asking any questions of ourselves.” – right back Bejamin Pavard.
Belgium lost its first match under Martinez to Spain in August 2016 and is unbeaten in 24 games since (19 wins).
Goals: France 9, Belgium 14
Shots on goal: 19/33
Shots off target: 27/32
Shots blocked: 10/20
Yellow cards: 8/7
Red cards: 0/0
Corner kicks: 15/30
Fouls committed: 73/72
Fouls conceded: 75/64
Ball possession: 51 percent/53
Passes attempted/completed: 2,431/2,037 (84 percent), 2,559/2,221 (87)
Distance covered: 314.3 miles (505.88 kilometers)/326.3 miles (525.2)