France v Belgium: Goalscorers take the eye in Saint Petersburg

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne looks a good price to find the net against France, says Dave
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Two of Belgium's Premier League stars can help boost the goal count in Tuesday night's World Cup semi-final showdown with France, says Dave Tindall...

"He has two goals from four starts, hit the post against Japan, was sensational against Brazil and takes spot-kicks."

1pt Eden Hazard to Score @ 13/5 (Sportsbook)

France v Belgium
Tuesday, 19:00
Live on BBC1

France finding home comforts in Europe again

It's fairly familiar territory for France the semi-finals of the World Cup. In fact, looking at the last three WC tournaments held in Europe, France have made the last four on each occasion, going on to lift the trophy on home soil in 1998, losing in the final to Italy in 2006 and reaching the semis here in Russia.

Beyond the thrill of their 4-3 victory over Argentina in the last 16 when Messi and co held a 2-1 advantage with 56 minutes gone, it's been fairly routine stuff.

They did enough to beat Australia (2-1) and Peru (1-0) in the group stage and then played out one of the rare duds in this World Cup, the 0-0 draw with Denmark.

They justified favouritism once more when seeing off Uruguay 2-0 thanks to Raphael Varane's set-piece header and Antoine Griezmann's speculative pot-shot spilled by Fernando Muslera.

In short, France have the look of a very competent tournament team. They get it done in tight games and have gears to go through if their cage is rattled. It's that latter trait which could be tested by the Belgium.

No sympathy from the Red Devils

You have to admire this Belgian squad. They win when they're supposed to (Panama, Tunisia, Japan). They win when they're not supposed to (Brazil). And they win when they're not even trying to (England).

Five games, five wins, 14 goals. They've given their supporters one of the most enjoyable rides of the World Cup.

Like France, they trailed in the second half of their last 16 match but, just as their opponents did, Belgium showed both skill and spirit to turn it around, finding three late goals to beat Japan 3-2.

While it would be easy to say that his players baled him out in that one, it's only fair to say that Roberto Martinez got it tactically spot on against Brazil.

Having Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel as part of a three in midfield gave them added solidity and also released Kevin De Bruyne further forward. The Manchester City star proved the benefits of that with one of the sweetest strikes of the tournament to make it 2-0.

Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were also outstanding against the Brazilians and Belgium have won their last two matches without this pair finding the net.

Martinez has lots of cards in his deck and he's playing his hands well.

French fancied

Having had the harder quarter-final and won it with something in hand, Belgium have claim to be favourites here but the market is staying true to the pair's pre-tournament odds.

France are [2.56] to win in 90 minutes, with Belgium at [3.25] and The Draw at [3.25].

For the French to land it, they'll have to end Belgium's 24-match unbeaten run which comprises 19 wins and five draws.

To find recent head-to-head form, we need to go back to a Paris friendly won 4-3 by Belgium in 2015. The visitors actually led 4-1 with a minute left before France got a couple of consolations to make the scoreline respectable.

Duo have plenty of firepower

While Belgium lead the way with 14 goals in this World Cup, France have managed eight in their five matches. A more positive spin is five in their last two games.

BTTS has landed in both Belgium's knockout games - 3-2 v Japan and 2-1 v Brazil - and it's [1.9] for 'Yes' paying out again. 'No' is [2.08].

Although France kept a clean sheet against Uruguay, the loss of Edinson Cavani made life an awful lot easier. Having Lukaku, Hazard and De Bruyne to contend with is a much, much harder proposition.

Don't presume occasion will stifle goal count

We've had a 7-1 (Germany v Brazil 2014) and a 3-2 (Holland v Uruguay 2010) in recent World Cup semis so it's mistaken to think that teams are gripped by fear at this stage of the tournament.

This last-four match-up looks to have more potential for goals than England v Croatia and I'm happy to play the underdog option and go Over 2.5 at [2.22]. It's [1.8] for Unders.

Plenty of goalscorer options

Antoine Griezmann and Romelu Lukaku are the joint anytime scorer favourites on the Sportsbook and yet both are 2/1. They could prove generous odds about both.

It's also fairly easy for the eyes to widen when looking at 12/5 Kylian Mbappe and Marouane Fellaini is interesting at 5s given that he's already headed one in against Japan.

But, as this tournament goes on, I'm getting more and more impressed by Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

Hazard has two goals from four starts, hit the post against Japan, was sensational against Brazil and takes spot-kicks. Back him at 13/5 to score anytime.

De Bruyne looked unhappy being played further back so, in the belief that he has more freedom to roam forward, I can't resist the 6/1 he follows up his Brazil cracker with another.

As competent as France are at the back, Belgium are the kings of the open play goal in this World Cup and I expect both Premier League stars to have obvious chances to score.

I'd lean towards Belgium - they're [2.2] to qualify - if picking a winner but I'm happier to invest in goals both overall and individually.

Dave Tindall's World Cup P/L

Staked: 19pts
Returned: 30pts
P/L: +11pts

Key Opta Stats for France v Belgium

This will be the 74th meeting in all competitions between France and Belgium. France have won 24 times to Belgium’s 30 (19 draws). Belgium are [3.25] to win.

This will be the first competitive meeting between France and Belgium since the 1986 World Cup, when France won 4-2 in the third-place playoff. A France win is [2.56].

Belgium won 4-3 the last time they met France, in a friendly in Paris in 2015. Both teams to score is [1.89].

France are making their sixth appearance in the World Cup semi-finals: they were eliminated from their first three (1958, 1982 and 1986) and have reached the final in the last two (1998 and 2006). They are [1.83] in the To Qualify market.

Belgium are unbeaten in their last 24 matches in all competitions, winning 19 and drawing five. The Belgians are [2.18] to get to the World Cup final.

Belgium’s haul of 14 goals is the most by the semi-final stage of a World Cup tournament since Brazil in 2002 (15). Over 2.5 goals is [2.24].

Belgium have had nine different goalscorers in the 2018 World Cup (excluding own goals); only Italy in 2006 and France in 1982 (10 each) have had more in a single tournament. Over 3.5 goals is [4.0].

France forward Antoine Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last six knockout stage matches in major tournaments (World Cup and EUROs). Griezmann is [3.0] to score.

Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 games for Belgium in all competitions (17 goals, 3 assists). Lukaku is [3.1] to find the net.

France’s Kylian Mbappe (3 goals) is the highest scoring teenager in a World Cup tournament since Pele scored six in 1958. Pele scored a hat-trick against France in the semi-final of that tournament, the last teen to score in the last four of the competition. Mbappe is [3.4] to add to his tally.

Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 14 games for Belgium (8 goals, 6 assists). Hazard is [3.6] to score.

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