How to Watch France-Belgium World Cup Semi Final 2018

Croatia at centre of World Cup cover-up as Fifa admit secret let-off over fans' fascist banners

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France were slow to get going in the group stages, but thrilled with their dramatic 4-3 win over Argentina and have looked strong and commanding ever since.

France have one of the best squads in World football.

The Golden Generation label seemed to hang like a millstone around the team's neck at previous tournaments, with quarter-final exits at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016. It was memorable in more ways than one.

Roberto Martinez summoned Dries Mertens from the bench and the change almost reaped instant dividends when the Napoli winger's cross was headed narrowly wide by Fellaini. Although they had been threatening to upset the world order for years, this was the moment that Belgium had truly arrived.

Of course, it wasn't pretty.

With his side clinging onto a 2-1 lead, Hazard repeatedly carried the ball forward in the dying minutes, drawing fouls to offer the Belgian backline some respite.

It should be an exciting game with plenty of goals. It signalled the blossoming of the defensive duo of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, who had managed to keep Luis Suarez and co at bay with rock-solid display at the back. The Real Madrid-Barcelona duo have held tight when called upon, and produced a real masterclass in keeping Luis Suarez and Uruguay quiet.

Didier Deschamps unearthed a gem in Pavard.

I know wing-back Nacer Chadli, who is likely be to directly up against Mbappe, said he is as good as Lionel Messi was at his age, but I disagree.

France last made the World Cup semifinals in 2006.

The pace of Mbappe has to be dealt with; Diego Laxalt did an excellent job but he had the pace to match.

"My role for the team is to create opportunities and to give passes that my forward teammates can use to make the difference, " he said. Axel Witsel could assist the Tottenham defender in this regard. The likes of Eden Hazard, Toby Alderweireld and Kevin De Bruyne are all regarded as near the best in the world in their respective positions. Their form, especially Hazard's, will have Deschamps thinking of possible cover for Pavard.

Belgium have conceded five goals so far, including two against Japan in the Round of 16, and their manager, Roberto Martinez, is known for playing open and expansive football that concedes goals as well as scores them.

Seven weeks ago, players and coaching team started working together at the base camp with the same goal: Their potential as players would be of use only if they could create a collective soul that would be stronger than any individual attempt.

Belgium will be without Thomas Meunier for the first time in the tournament, as the PSG midfield has also picked up a suspension. Both sides are coming off of impressive quarter-final performances and there is a sense that the victor of the tournament will probably come from this tie.

France have no such selection issues and are nearly certain to stick with Stuttgart's Benjamin Pavard at right back after a string of impressive displays from the 22-year-old have made him one of the tournament's stand-out defenders.

Tactically, the permutations-combinations are endless given the abundance of talent at the disposal of both coaches.

There was less at stake the last time the teams last went head-to-head at the World Cup, a 4-2 victory for France in the third-place match in 1986. So all of the above applies for fans hoping to watch England and Croatia play for a spot in the World Cup 2018 finals.

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