Two European heavyweights go face-to-face in the semi-final of the UEFA Nations League on Thursday night when Belgium face France at the Juventus Stadium in Italy.
Belgium are at risk of letting their ‘golden generation’ pass them by without lifting a major trophy. They were beaten by Italy in the quarter-finals of EURO 2020 despite entering the tournament as the number one ranked team in the world.
That said, they have only lost two of their last 31 matches. One, of course, coming against Italy at EURO 2020 and the other coming in the Nations League against England at an empty Wembley Stadium last October.
They were able to progress to the Nations League finals, though, with five wins from their other six matches; topping Group 2 with 15 points ahead of Denmark in second, England in third and Iceland in fourth.
We all know about the players that have the ability to hurt France in this semi-final. Kevin De Bruyne in midfield, Eden Hazard on either flank and, of course, new Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku through the middle.
The question isn’t so much of if Belgium have the quality to beat France, or any international team for that matter, it is if they can banish the demons of years gone by and finally progress through to a final.
Belgium v France
UEFA Nations League Semi-Final
19:45 Sky Sports Football / Sky Sports Ultra HD
(Maximum 10 matches)
JUL 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP France 1-0 Belgium
JUN 2015 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY France 3-4 Belgium
AUG 2013 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY Belgium 0-0 France
NOV 2011 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY France 0-0 Belgium
FEB 2004 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY Belgium 0-2 France
MAY 2002 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY France 1-2 Belgium
MAY 1998 KING HASSAN II CUP Belgium 0-1 France
MAR 1996 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY Belgium 0-2 France
MAR 1992 INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY France 3-3 Belgium
JUN 1986 FIFA WORLD CUP Belgium 2-4 France
France flattered to deceive at EURO 2020 last summer – getting knocked out by Switzerland on penalties in the round-of-16 despite going into the tournament as favourites – and will be out to prove that they are still very much a footballing powerhouse.
N’Golo Kante is unavailable for Les Bleus for this one after returning a positive COVID-19 test, but they’re not exactly short of quality options to pick from. Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema are all players that Belgium need to look out for.
In fact, despite a pretty disastrous tournament for France, Pogba still performed well at EURO 2020. The Manchester United midfielder has been omitted from the starting XI for this club a couple of times recently, but the Frenchman always seems to turn up for his country.
In the Nations League, France snuck through to the finals in a tough group that included both Portugal and Croatia; winning five and drawing one of their six matches. Olivier Giroud finished up as their leading scorer in the competition with three goals.
These are two sides with fantastic attacking quality and, therefore, I can definitely see both teams finding the back of the net here. We’re backing both teams to score at 17/20 with Romelu Lukaku breaking his small goal drought at any time in the match at 13/8.
PROFIT/LOSS (OCTOBER 2021): LOSS -6.58 points
(Excluding ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)