Fluent France outwit Belgium with patience, and a plan

France have been carrying the tag of 'favourites' ever since the start of the tournament.

 |  3-minute read |   11-07-2018
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The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow will host the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and France booked their place with probably one of their better showings in the showpiece tournament so far.

The performance was no mean feat. To keep the highest scorers in the World Cup quiet and how, required a well thought out plan of action, and more importantly, the personnel to execute it.

Belgium came into this game knowing that the last time a national team made its way to the semi-final was in 1986, where a certain diminutive Argentinian (Maradona) scored a brace and the rest they say is history.

France have been carrying the tag of "favourites" ever since the start of the tournament and the hallmark of every favourite is that the performances get better as the final hurdle keeps coming closer.

A match-up fit for the final began with Belgium enjoying the lion's share of possession and midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne was at the heart of every move. The Man City midfielder and his positioning on the pitch has always been crucial to the way "The Red Devils" organised themselves in this tournament.

frabel_071118025736.jpgPhoto: Reuters

While he was deployed in deeper positions through most of the early phases of their campaign, it is this freedom to roam in forward positions in a well-thought out "False 9" is where he is at his destructive best. He started on Tuesday night on the right side of the pitch with the liberty to go to the other flank. Belgium were also handicapped by a notable absentee in the shape of their right back Thomas Meunier, which might be pointed to as a reason for failure when the inquest begins.

France had their work cut out and were very happy to trust the collective force and experience of N'Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi to keep Belgium at bay. Kante in particular was vary of the threat that the Belgian skipper Eden Hazard posed to their goalmouth and in typical Kante fashion, shadowed his Chelsea teammate till the very end.

The French determination to overcome Belgium was epitomised by Antoine Griezmann. The French No 7 has always come good for his country in knockout tournaments. After all it was his delivery of the corner that led to the deciding goal by Samuel Umtiti. The party at fault was Marouane Fellaini, the man who earns his bread and butter as a footballer with his colossal presence in the penalty box, offensively and defensively.

Making sure his team did not suffer in numbers for defence, "Grizou" was sometimes found outside his own penalty box, shrugging off challenges and ensuring the lightening quick Mbappe and the resolute Giroud got enough service in the face of increasing Belgian pressure.

As Les Blues and Griezmann await their opponents for July 15, Didier Deschamps will look to become the third man to lift the World Cup as a player and as a manager and the victory might go a long way to alleviate the pain of defeat at the EURO 2016.

Also read: It's Realpolitik: Why it's erroneous to corner Jayant Sinha over garlanding Jharkhand lynching case convicts


Chaitanya Lekhwani Chaitanya Lekhwani @chaitanya021

The author is an avid football enthusiast and has followed the beautiful game through passion and profession for the better part of a decade. When not playing FIFA or watching football highlights, he can be found crooning at your nearest Karaoke bar.

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