World Cup Semi-final: France to lock horns with Belgium for a place in the Final
They have traditionally been allies with each other in 20th-century conflicts, while sitting next to each other on the map, but for one night they will be the bitterest of rivals as France face Belgium in the World Cup semi-final.
France's route to the final has consisted of group victories over Australia, Peru, before drawing against Denmark. That saw them win their group. Les Bleus then beat Argentina in a thrilling 4-3 encounter, before comfortably knocking out Uruguay; thanks to goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Greizmann.
Belgium, on the other hand, are unbeaten throughout the whole tournament so far, winning their group by beating Panama, Tunisia and England. They began their knockout phase with wins over Japan and Brazil in the last sixteen and quarter-final respectively. The Red Devils were tipped to do well prior to the start of the World Cup, and they have been going about their business quietly under former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Roberto Martinez. To this point, their star-studded squad seems to be sharing the load, with Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku all chipping in.
France and Belgium have met one another in a World Cup on two previous occasions. The first came in 1938 in "Round One" where France beat Belgium 3-1 and the second came in 1986 in a third-place play-off when France won the game 4-2.
France are in store for a major boost going into the last four, with Blaise Matuidi coming back from the suspension he obtained after picking up two yellow cards before the quarter-final. The Juventus midfielder has been a key player for his country to this point, his return will be a timely for Didier Deschamps' side. He was replaced by Corentin Tolisso for their game against Uruguay and it is going to be extremely interesting to see whether France stick with the same team, or bring Matuidi back in. With players like Kylian Mpabbe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Greizmann on top form, they can beat anyone on the planet at the moment.
In terms of injuries, Deschamps has a set of fully fit players at his disposal. France will be hoping to get to a World Cup final for the first time since 2006 when they lost to Italy in Berlin, Germany. They are looking to take that one step further this time around, hoping to win their second ever World Cup. They've already gone better than they did four years ago, losing in the quarter-final round to Brazil. Now, though, all the expectation is on their shoulders.
Like France, Belgium have a fit squad and are likely to go for the same starting eleven that beat Brazil. Their manager, Martinez, has stated in the past that there is something "special" about his squad. They have immense ability all over the park. The Red Devils have been labelled as a team of individuals in the past, but there is no doubt that they have played as a team in this World Cup. It is so important to have a united squad, rather than one overcome by egos. When you consider the quality attacking options they have, goals will be scored against any team in football.
Martinez's side are looking to make history on Tuesday, as they look to earn their place in a first ever World Cup final. They have only ever been in a semi-final once, that was in 1986, where they lost to Argentina. Therefore, the whole of Belgium is immersed in football at the minute and rightly so. Their heroes have already taken one step further than how they performed in Brazil in 2014. They were knocked out in the last eight four years ago.
It is a hard game to predict, there will be goals as both teams carry such an attacking threat. I think France will just edge it and get to the final due to the experience they have in their ranks. Matuidi coming back into the team will allow Pogba to express himself more and strut his stuff. We saw Belgium get nervous in the second half against Brazil in their semi-final and these doubts could sneak back into their defence as the pressure heats up.
France 2 Belgium 1 (Greizmann, Mpabbe, Lukaku to score).