Pretty much all of Meghalaya is glued to the World Cup and as we enter the semifinal stage, it seems appropriate that we approach the experienced coach Bobby Nongbet (who has an A-Licence and Youth Coaching Diploma) for his opinion on who might win the eagerly-anticipated France-Belgium last-four clash. That match kicks off at 11:30PM tonight. 

As we prepare to witness the semifinals of this peculiar, but doubtlessly one of the most interesting, FIFA World Cups, France versus Belgium is sure to be an epic clash.

France have encountered neighbouring Belgium 73 times, with France winning just 24 games, Belgium 30 and 19 encounters ending in a draw.

France will be playing their sixth World Cup semifinal match. They went on to win the tournament only once, in 1998 at home, thrashing Brazil 3-0 and I couldn’t believe that score then. It was a top-class performance. They also finished runners-up in 2006 to Italy, third in 1958 and 1986 and fourth in 1982.

Meanwhile, Belgium participated in six successive World Cups between 1982 and 2002. They were not all that impressive in the past – this will only be the second time that they have reached the semifinals. The other time was back in 1986, incidentally when the Belgians finished fourth behind France.

While manager Roberto Martinez will likely stick with the same first 11, apart from the suspended Thomas Meunier, Didier Deschamps might also follow the same thing as France were dominant and convincing against Uruguay in the quarterfinals, where they emerged as 2-0 victors.

France will likely stay with the 4-4-1-1 formation with the attacking prodigy of Kylian Mbappé and talented Antoine Griezmann supported by Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and (most probably) Olivier Giroud.

Belgium, adopting the 3-4-3 formation, have been rewarded with the current form of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Nacer Chadli –  this combination has been equally good and might be devastating against France.

As we speak about the teams’ performances, France were less entertaining in the group stages, but picked up well and demonstrated a much better effort during the second round and quarterfinal stages. France also have a lot more team experience and seem to be peaking at the right time.

Belgium, on the other hand, have established themselves well over the last few years. They have carried their impressive performance during the group stages into the knockout stage, amply displayed when they overcame a two-nil deficit versus Japan in the Round of 16 with some spirited play.

But it was that scintillating win against Brazil in the quarters that showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. If they exhibit their positive momentum and counterattacking prowess, Belgium may well overcome their much larger rivals France today.

(TSR file photo)

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