Belgium, France face off in 1st semi-final today

Belgium, France face off in 1st semi-final today
Belgium players during a training session ahead of their semi-final clash against France.
St Petersburg, Jul 9 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 7/10/2018 12:42:42 AM IST
Roberto Martinez’s swashbuckling Belgium side head into Tuesday’s semi-final with familiar foes France as the World Cup’s leading scorers, but their old rivals have evolved as the tournament has progressed and will also be full of confidence.
Belgium has scored 14 goals in five matches and was hugely impressive in their 2-1 quarter-final victory over Brazil, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne combining to devastating effect to oust the five-times world champions.
In contrast, France sleep-walked through the group stages, eking out wins over Australia and Peru before a stultifying 0-0 draw with Denmark.
Their early struggles had ‘Les Bleus’ being written off in some quarters, but all that changed when they faced Argentina in the last 16 in what must be a leading contender for the most exciting match of the tournament.
Didier Deschamps tweaked his formation, effectively freeing up Kylian Mbappe on the right to run at the Argentine defense, and what followed was a wonderful display of attacking football that France won 4-3. The victory boosted France’s morale, and they followed it up with a workman-like 2-0 win over Uruguay that was impressive because of how well they managed to control the game against tricky opponents.
Belgium faced a heart-stopping moment of uncertainty in the first knockout round against Japan when Martinez’s decision to rest players in their final group match against England almost backfired spectacularly.
Against Brazil in the quarters, Martinez showed tactical adventure, as he pushed target man Lukaku to the wing to allow De Bruyne to operate as a ‘false nine’. The strategy worked, and De Bruyne scored his first goal in Russia.
Tuesday’s clash in St Petersburg has all the makings of a classic, with fans and viewers likely to be treated to the sight of two wonderfully attacking teams going toe-to-toe.
“It’s a super exciting game with great players on both sides,” France defender Benjamin Pavard said. “It’s going to be a man’s match and we will have to step up.”
Head to head history
France and Belgium have played each other twice at the World Cup. The first time was back in the opening round in 1938, when the French recorded a 3-1 win.
And it would be 48 years when the teams would meet again, albeit in less significant circumstances.
Goals from Jean-Marc Ferreri, Jean-Pierre Papin, Bernard Genghini and Manuel Amoros (pen) helped Les Bleus to a 4-2 extra time win in the 1986 third/fourth place play-off.
France and Belgium are very familiar foes, having played each other a staggering 73 times.
And it’s the Belgians who have the better head to head record, having won 30 to the French’s 24 and 19 games ending in a draw. But in competitive games, France have won 5 with Belgium winning 3 and 3 draws. 
The last match between the two teams took place in 2015 with Belgium running out 4-3 winners with two Marouane Fellaini goals in an exciting friendly in Paris.

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