Tue, Jul 10, 1:26pm by Staff Writer
Date and Time: Wednesday July 11, 4am AEST
Venue: Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
TV: SBS, Optus Sport
Neighbours France and Belgium clash in the first semi-final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with a spot in the final up for grabs.
France are narrow favourites for the match in Saint Petersburg, priced at $2.40 to win in regular time at Sportsbet. Belgium are $3.10 outsiders, with the draw paying $3.25.
For France, Blaise Matuidi returns from suspension and is likely to return to the midfield with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Youngster Kylian Mbappe will lead the line along with Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud for Les Bleus.
Robert Martinez will be forced into at least one change to his Belgian side, with Thomas Meunier suspended.
Either Nacer Chadli or Toby Alderweireld will be drafted in as a starting replacement, depending on the formation Martinez opts to play.
Belgium secured a place in the final four of the tournament for only the second time in their history and the first since 1986 with a shock 2-1 win against tournament favourites Brazil.
Belgium’s road to the semi finals hit a significant roadblock in the round of 16. They trailed Japan 2-0 in the second half before a rousing comeback saw them snatch victory in regular time, winning 3-2.
They managed an undefeated group campaign, thrashing Panama and Tunisia before a narrow 1-0 win against England had them atop group G.
France have managed to reach the semifinals without being forced to extra time or penalties.
A pulsating 4-3 win against Argentina was followed by a 2-0 win against another South American team in Uruguay in the quarterfinals.
Les Bleus defeated Australia and Peru in the group stages, before a final match draw against Denmark. They finished atop group C.
These two teams have met on a staggering 73 occasions, with Wednesday morning’s semi final set to be the 74th meeting.
They have not faced each other in a competitive match since the 1986 World Cup third placed match in Mexico, with France winning that match in extra time.
France have defeated Belgium on 24 occasions, with Belgium winning 30 times, as well as the teams drawing 19 times.
France appear in the semifinals of the World Cup for the sixth time in their history, winning the last two and losing the first three.
Belgium are unbeaten in the last 24 games, winning their last seven. They have found scoring goals effortless at the World Cup, with their haul of 14 from five games, second only to Brazil in 2002.
France are $1.75 to qualify for the next round at Sportsbet and have the luxury of their best possible side taking the park.
Belgium are $2.10 to qualify and may sorely miss Meunier’s presence in the centre of the park.
Either team to win on penalties is paying $5 and given the drama we have seen in the tournament thus far, it wouldn’t surprise if this match went the distance.
Neither side has been shy in front of goals, with the over/under 2.5 goals paying $1.72 for the under and $2 for the over.
This should be a cagey affair as most semifinals tend to be and with both sides familiar with one another’s styles, we are predicting a draw after 90 minutes.
Best bet- France Belgium draw after 90 minutes at $3.25
France v Belgium Odds – Sportsbet
France $2.45 Draw $3.25 Belgium $3.10
Draw No Bet- France $1.65 Belgium $2.10
To qualify for the next round France $1.75 Belgium $210
Over 2.5 goals $2 Under 2.5 goals $1.72
Method of Victory
Either team in extra time $6
Either team on penalties $5
France in extra time $10
Belgium in extra time $12
France in penalties $9.50
Belgium in penalties $9.50
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