FIFA World Cup Talking Points: France V Belgium

In the first semi-final clash of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, France beat Belgium 1-0 to book their spot in the final. The match-up was intense but the Frenchmen did enough to outlast Belgium’s golden generation of football.

From the opening kick, the match was action-packed from end to end with both teams having many opportunities to break the deadlock, and it was exciting football even for neutrals.

However, only six minutes after the restart of the second half, Samuel Umtiti broke the 0-0 tie with a goal from a set-piece that would give the French the lead they would ultimately hang on to.

Belgium had a few chances but could not outsmart the French defence and they bow out of the competition after one impressive performance after another.

Here are a few talking points that came out after that thrilling encounter between top European nations.

FRENCH DEFENCE NULLIFIED BELGIAN ATTACK

Before this match-up, many were wondering how both nations’ defences would stand against world-class offensive firepower at both ends.

France had players like Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann who have the capabilities to score, while the Belgians had Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard who have been very impressive so far in the World Cup.

During the match-up, it was obvious that the French defence was up to task as they constantly stifled any attempt by the Belgians to play the ball to Lukaku. Raphael Varane put on an incredible performance on the night and was impeccable in defence as he would not give Lukaku a sniff of the ball.

Furthermore, the French defensive formation hindered De Bruyne to make any of his impressive runs towards the box and he was nowhere to be seen for most of the evening.

KEY PLAYER CHOICE MAY HAVE DOOMED BELGIUM

To start the semi-final tie in the World Cup, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez opted to play Mousa Dembele in the midfield in hopes of adding a new facet to the team’s offence.

Unfortunately, the Tottenham Hotspur player had a night to forget as he was constantly beaten to the ball by the French players, and cut a frustrated look as he constantly committed fouls – very lucky not to have been booked.

If not for Hazard’s excellent display especially in the first half, Dembele’s incompetence throughout the match would have been highlighted even more as he failed to link up in the offence and often looked lost and out of position on defence.

Finally, Martinez opted to switch him and brought in Dries Martens who looked like the right man to start the game with.

The moment he stepped on to the pitch, Mertens made his presence felt with impressive runs on the flanks and crosses that constantly threatened the French defence. Unfortunately, the Napoli man was only given 30 minutes to make an impact and it was quite possible that if he had a longer stay on the pitch he could have been the difference.

FRANCE HAVE WORK TO DO TO WIN IT ALL

Now in the final of the World Cup, the Frenchmen have only 90 minutes between them and immortality by winning the trophy.

They absolutely have the personnel to do it and the momentum of beating out one of the best teams in the competition should be enough to let them know they belong.

Waiting for either Croatia or England to face in the final, the French should still ensure that they are on point and stay focused to win the World Cup.

One thing they should also try to ensure is that Giroud must be given chances to end his scoring drought as his performance greatly helps the French squad moving forward.

France’s brilliance on the midfield during the semi-final game should have resulted in more goals but Giroud was constantly misfiring, with no goals to show with six shots on the night. Didier Deschamps continues to choose him in the front line and the Chelsea striker must repay the trust given to him if he wants to help the team win it all.

He has the talent and has the talent surrounding him to succeed, he must only make sure to convert on the chances given to him.

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