The first of the World Cup semi-finals takes place in Saint Petersburg between two of the most highly-fancied teams of the tournament, France and Belgium.

Both countries emerged from their respective groups as winners and have negotiated some equally highly-billed – albeit under-performing – countries to get this far.

Similarly, the French and Belgian sides are stuffed with talent that can prove to be match-winners on their day while also being strong defensively. It promises to be a fascinating matchup between two neighbouring nations.Live Forum


Reader Comments (50)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 09/07/2018 at 21:05:57
So many of these hyped matches turn out to be duds, but there is so much talent on this pitch, I don't see how this one can be. So looking forward to it.

I want Belgium to win as the Mrs has them, but I won't be heartbroken if they don't. There is lots to like and admire about both of these teams.

Steve Ferns
2 Posted 09/07/2018 at 21:10:42
I want Belgium to win as the Mrs is cheering on her "home" nation of France, as well as laughing at me suddenly getting worked up at England. She reckons she told me it was an England - France final all along and that France will beat us; however, I don't think her prediction of Henry and Zidane getting the goals is accurate.
Darren Hind
3 Posted 09/07/2018 at 21:29:51
I've loved this World Cup, Steve, it's been a breath of fresh air after the season we had.

It's been great on here too. I passed remarks on the Yanks' enthusiasm from day one and that has simply grown and grown, making some of these threads a joy to read.

My one regret looking back is that the US weren't represented. These guys would have been off the scale.

Here's to next time. A penalty shoot-out against the Russia or Mexico? Jamie would probably self-combust.

Paul Tran
4 Posted 09/07/2018 at 21:46:45
It's my 13th World Cup and I can't think of one I've enjoyed more. Great games and loads of surprises.

Got Belgian & French friends, so for tomorrow it's just the cliche of hoping for a good game. I'm expecting a belter.

I'll be sorry when it's over. If they make a DVD of it, it'll be a long one.

Jamie Crowley
5 Posted 09/07/2018 at 22:27:07
I need a Belgium - England final with England winning the World Cup to take home the coveted Crowley Family Bracket title.

Three games left. This next one will be a war. As Darren said there is an insane amount of talent on the field for this one.

With the potency of the two attacks, I can see this finishing with some absurd scoreline of like 5-4 or some such thing.

I'll be getting no work done at all tomorrow afternoon – that's a sure bet.

And yes, Darren – it's absolutely killing me the US isn't in the tournament! But we simply didn't deserve it. A new day dawns in America, with Pulisic leading my boys into the final someday. ;0)

And if it came down to pens with the Mexicans, my heart would definitely blow straight out of my chest. I honestly don't think I could take that. Just blow up into a mess of blood and guts probably.

International soccer for me is simply wonderful. I realize that's a foreign concept to so many Blues, but we're a very patriotic bunch over here. When that team takes the field and represents my country, I literally feel like they are representing all of us. And so the pain they aren't in this one is very acute.

It's bred into us here. All of us know we "came from somewhere else" and there's an immense pride - despite the admitted ugliness we are capable of - in that identity. Our great-grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, came here to better themselves and create a free, strong, independent nation where you can live the American Dream with a little hard work, ingenuity, and a bit of luck. It's something most of us have bought into hook, line, and sinker and we're very proud of it. And that's what you see, when you see us go positively batshit crazy for our team. They represent that ideal. Look at the names you've seen over the years in our squad - Bradley, Altidore, Pulisic, Donovan, Zusi, Lalas, Gonzalez, etc. English, French, Croatian (Serbian maybe?), Irish, Italian, Greek, Mexican,... it goes on and on.

It's the melting pot of 11 men trying like hell to prove legitimacy to the world at their – not our – game.

So fuck, yes, I get behind them like a rabid dog. It's fucking 'Merica right in front of me running around kicking a ball – all the diversity and beauty this place has encapsulated on a field of green.

We want that trailblazing soccer team to create a new reality and pierce the soccer world and say, "the beast has finally come to the party."

It hasn't happened. And that's why so many of us invested in "soccer" in America so desperately want success. We've all done our part at grassroots level – with our kids, coaching, refereeing, everything. So the national team is an emotional extension of that involvement.

I'd fucking gnaw off my own arm to see us win a World Cup before I die.

In the meantime I'll be pulling for England. ;0)

So there's your American enthusiasm for Day 22! It's going to be a good one!

ps: If you want to throw up a bit after reading that, I honestly don't blame you a bit.

David Graves
6 Posted 09/07/2018 at 22:32:03
I too have loved it all. What has excited me most though is seeing the generation of Evertonians who have had so little to be proud of getting excited about and feeling part of the biggest tournament in the world.

Even those sceptics who banged on about being “scouse not English” have changed their minds. Make the most of the last week, though... There's at least another 8 derbies without a win before the next one comes around. 😀

Andy Crooks
7 Posted 09/07/2018 at 22:35:37
Could anyone tell me what the France - Belgium rivalry is like? Is it like England - Scotland? Is it a grudge match? Who would England prefer to face?
Ian Burns
8 Posted 09/07/2018 at 22:47:47
Andy, Apart from Flemish, French is the most common language in Belgium and I know from my Belgian friends they would just love to put one over them. However, my French friends (and neighbours) are extremely confident.

I would like to see one or two fly past Thibaut Courtois, whilst Jordan keeps a clean sheet in the other semi-final!

Tony Abrahams
9 Posted 09/07/2018 at 22:55:51
If England qualify for the final, Andy, I would prefer to play Belguim. The reason I give is that – although both teams can create – I just think the French might be a more defensively solid team.

International football has been boring for years, and I was beginning to agree with the people who were saying that the Champions League was now the best tournament in world football, but that was obviously before this World Cup began!

Jamie, great post, spoken from the heart, makes me understand the "God bless America" shout even more. I hope you win the coveted family cup, but if America are to ever win the big one, I can think of many better ways to celebrate mate, even for a rabid dog!!

Darren Hind
10 Posted 10/07/2018 at 05:49:22
Throw up Jamie? You're having a laugh.

You guys have shown a combination of passion and humour and these World Cup threads have been hugely entertaining. I still haven't mastered the art of typing and watching the game at the same time (proper multi tasking) so I tend to read them afterwards. They've been great fun.

I have no doubt that your compatriots would agree; you definitely "came from somewhere else". It makes me smile to think there is five more like you at home.


5 - Post of the day and it's not even 6 am here.

Jamie Crowley
11 Posted 10/07/2018 at 07:04:30
Darren -

I'm up WAY too late and you're just rising. The internet!

Hint:

Open two tabs on your browser - one to stream, the other one for the live forum. You can type while watching the game!

I do have a pretty nifty, dual-screen set up at home and at work, and that does help the above. Try the phone for the live forum and the computer for the streaming. ;0) Cheers. Off to bed.

Twelve hours until Bobby Brown Shoes books his place in soccer's biggest stage. ;0)

Paul Tran
12 Posted 10/07/2018 at 09:17:53
Andy (#7), there's a nice piece in today's Times on a Franco-Belgian border town, where the talk is of little or no rivalry. Thee real rivalry is between the Dutch and the Belgians – my Dutch wife tells me many jokes about the Belgians!
Dave Ganley
15 Posted 10/07/2018 at 17:21:32
This is the first World Cup I've enjoyed since Italia 90. Enjoyed watching France in 98 but as an all-round tournament then this has been pretty good.

I have a feeling France will win tonight. They've been my favourites since the start so no need to change my mind now and after dealing with Uruguay's rough house tactics I think they will easily deal with Fellaini et al. Whether they can handle Hazard and De Bruyne is another matter but I'm really looking forward to this one.

Tomorrow night is anybody's guess but I'm feeling quite hopeful after easily dispatching Sweden. Bring it on.

John Pierce
16 Posted 10/07/2018 at 18:29:29
The live forum has been excellent, mostly because it's not Everton and we can enjoy without the cynicism that our club often generates.

The threads have been lively, VAR helping out there. Notice it's gone quiet in the knockout stages?

Lots of camaraderie and some interesting tangents, Crowley!!

Looking forward to seeing it through to the glorious end.

France to edge it, because they've been very solid, compact. The outlier was their Argentina game as they just had some much open space given to them.

I'm expecting a proper Bobby game, gloriously shooting himself in the foot as snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

I will say Lukaku has done things I never expected in this tournament, very impressed. The influence for the winning goal versus Japan truly wonderful.

Well, off to grab a beer and open that forum.

Mike Gaynes
17 Posted 10/07/2018 at 18:39:38
Jamie (#5), turn that post into a poem and we can set it to some Sousa music!
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

18 Posted 10/07/2018 at 18:45:30
I would love an England - Belgium final because of the strong Everton interest, but I just fancy France to edge this one today: 2-1 – with a tad more defensive resilience and streetwiseness than Bobby's Belgium.

That said, if they both 'ave at it, it could equally be a repeat of the France - Argentina scoreline, 4-3... 5-4... anything!

Crackin' World Cup. Best ever for me.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

19 Posted 10/07/2018 at 19:52:25
Top quality 1st half. A real chess game.

Good brief start by France then Belgium well on top with France barely able to break the half-way line.

France finishing the stronger.

Dembele the only player off his game. Looking what he is – someone who hasn't had much game time in recent weeks.

What's it going to take to break the deadlock? A moment of brilliance, or a howler?

Andy Crooks
20 Posted 10/07/2018 at 19:55:38
Jay, in my view 1970 and 1978 were way better. But I guess personal circumstances, nostalgia and youth come into it. I also think the football and punditry were better then.

Having said that, it has been a cracker, way beyond what I expected. I will be gutted when it ends because I have established a World Cup, sunny weather, beer, routine that I will miss and see as a great, really great summer.

There has been a real positive buzz on this site and, so positive is my mood, I believe that Marco Silva will continue the buzz right through the dark days of winter.

Dave Abrahams
21 Posted 10/07/2018 at 20:00:18
Jay (#19), I'm looking for a Giroud effort on target. He hasn't had one yet in this World Cup... maybe he's saving it for the final? He's always just behind the ball; he works hard but haven't France got another striker they can use?
Alan McGuffog
22 Posted 10/07/2018 at 20:16:16
Going out on a limb here but I think Mbappe would do a job for us. If we could get him to track back, of course.
Brian Williams
23 Posted 10/07/2018 at 20:23:22
Nahhh Alan. Flash in the pan mate.
Alan McGuffog
24 Posted 10/07/2018 at 20:26:52
Probably right, Brian...

The French Michael Branch.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

25 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:00:55
Just about deserved by France. Good game management by Les Bleus after the goal.

Does that result put you in the poor house for the rest of the year, Andy?

I so wanted an England - Belgium final. Not to be...

Steve Ferns
26 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:04:13
Dunno about Dembele being the only one off his game, shackled he may have been, but the passing and shooting of De Bruyne was poor.

France were simply magnificent in defence and they shut down Lukaku and De Bruyne like they were nothing. Hazard had to come very deep. And Fellaini was nullified in the air.

Didn't rate Deschamps before this game, but I've clearly judged him without due consideration.

Jamie Crowley
27 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:07:35
Well done, France. Negated Lukaku and any Belgium attack to be honest.

Boring game. Pretty dire stuff. But France did exactly what they needed to.

Roll on tomorrow – c'mon England!

Andy Crooks
28 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:14:27
Gutted, Martinez out!
Steve Ferns
29 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:14:54
I fear that French defence smothering Kane and keeping England quiet in open play. The way they shut down the big Belgians, particularly Fellaini, at set pieces, worries me they can also nullify England in that way too.

Dele Alli hasn't shown his best yet; we'd need him at his very best to give us a chance against this lot.

But first things first – Croatia, and that won't be easy.

Jamie Crowley
30 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:17:33
For all those people who wanted Roberto out, I will absolutely give you this:

The goal was scored off a corner (cough-cough) with no man on the near post!

I'm not a Roberto basher – well documented that! But it must be said one of his most infuriating aspects was his defending of set pieces, namely corners.

Why in all that is holy do you not put a man on each post is beyond me.

A bit pig-headed with that situation was and is Roberto. Knocked his Golden Generation right out of the World Cup in part because he just won't defend corners properly!

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

31 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:19:21
Hazard was the only Galactico on the Belgian team who shone today. If he had been on the winning side he would have deservedly won the MotM.

De Bruyne didn't show in the 2nd half and Lukaku didn't show at all. All too familiar stats at the final whistle for a Martinez team:

Belgium bossed the possession 64-34%, had almost double the passing of France 630-342, higher passing accuracy rate 90-86%, but of course – as always – the most decisive data is...

France 1 Belgium 0.

Martinez post-match: "It was a dead ball situation which was the difference. It was a close game and it was very tight and it was going to be decided by that bit of luck in front of goal."

Luck, or good delivery by the corner taker and good anticipation and movement by Umtiti to get the run and jump on the equally sized giant assigned to mark him?

Sorry not to see more Evertonians in the final.

Jamie Crowley
32 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:20:34
Also, the one thing I'm fearing about Silva is I read somewhere he defends corners a little wonky as well?

That scares me a bit. Love everything I've seen and read about the guy thus far, sans that.

Just stick two men on the post, put a guy up top for clearances so the ball, if cleared, doesn't come screaming back at you, and mark up.

How fucking hard is that to execute? It's elementary!

Ian Burns
33 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:22:23
Jamie (#30) – I am no longer a Roberto basher either but he will be delighted at the amount of possession Belgian had given it was against the French – best team at the tournament.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

34 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:23:11
Andy @ 28.

No new Lamborghini courtesy of Paddy Power then, fellah?

Andy Crooks
35 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:23:18
It does, Jay, it really does. You know what, though, it was money well spent. Excitement, top football and the heart racing. Football, gives me, as a player many years ago, and now as a fan, the best fun in the world. This has been great and there is more to come.

By the way, for those burnt punters, not you Darren Hind! There is a way out. "The Tin Man" will win the July cup. If not, a shot will ring out!!

Jamie Crowley
36 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:25:49
I hear you Ian.

It's truly infuriating because I think Roberto gets a lot of things right!

But today, all credit to the French by the way, we saw a set piece not defended properly, and Belgium kick the fucker around the perimeter waiting for some magical hole to open up to slot a ball through to Lukaku. Never happened!

It's a microcosm of why so many people on TW were right about Roberto. It took me eons to see it, but I was wrong and they were right.

Today proved it – perfect example of Roberto's shortcomings!

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

37 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:30:17
On another issue, Neymar has deservedly drawn some flack this World Cup for his simulation.

Mbappe has really shone and his drag back pass to set up Giroud in the 2nd half was as good as anything this World Cup has offered to date.

But – by 'eck! – the youngster isn't averse to a touch of gamesmanship himself either, is he?

I hope Deschamps has another word, as he seemingly did on subbing the player against Uruguay shortly after another thespian fall which sparked off a mini-melee.

Not nice to see in one so talented.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

38 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:33:32
Andy @ 35.

"There is a way out. "The Tin Man" will win the July cup. If not, a shot will ring out!!"

Sure you can afford the bullet Andy..?

Michael Lynch
39 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:34:18
Harry Kane almost certainly gets the golden boot now – Mbappe or Greizman would have to score four in the final to beat him.
Steve Ferns
40 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:39:07
Jamie, Why not put two men on the post? Because that gives you two more men to attack the ball and head it away. If you have a man on the post, he gets in the way of the keeper, see Trippier and Pickford.

Also, Courtois is a massive keeper at 6'-7" so he might believe he can fill the goal.

I played left back. I always got the left post. Sometimes, though, the keeper told me to leave it. If I was manager, I would let the keeper make the call.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

41 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:44:13
Anyway, in happier news, here is an 8-minute video link showing the first team in Austria doing not only more drills, but also actual match play situation.

Link

I received (too late!) notification of this as a live feed on Facebook, but it was done and dusted before I could watch it.

Anyone more fortunate and who saw the session live on Facebook?

Barry McNally
42 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:46:03
Michael (#39), don't forget Big Rom has one game left – no pressure so he'll score a hat-trick!
Steve Ferns
43 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:48:36
Sorry, Jay, I was out all day, and only just got in.
Tom Bowers
44 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:52:24
France have been my pick since the off. Belgium had their chance early on when Hazard and De Bruyne were sparking but after the first 20 minutes they fizzled and France got control.

Martinez made a big mistake starting Chadli who is little more than useless and he should have realized that judging by his lack of Premier League time last season.

Rom was pretty well locked up, as was Fellaini.

Raymond Fox
45 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:54:14
Both teams played too cagey for it to be a good spectacle.

If England do reach the final, which I just about fancy them to, I think we have a better chance against France than we would have had against Belgium. Can we beat France, well the obvious answer is yes, but I'd have to make us second favourites.

I don't think our defence will be strong enough, by the defence I mean whats in front of Pickford.

Steve Ferns
46 Posted 10/07/2018 at 21:59:56
Michae,l as discussed last night, the excellent John Blaine interview is back on ToffeeTV.
Steve Ferns
47 Posted 10/07/2018 at 22:03:29
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

48 Posted 10/07/2018 at 22:06:48
In the Everton training video, the white bibs really dominate the Blues.

The white bibs defence appears to be Baines-Keane-Holgate-Coleman, midfield Banigame-Besic-Klaassen and (I think) Connolly, forwards Tosun and Walcott with Vadic in the sole yellow bib (and scorer of the only goal). Vlasic is in a yellow bib for a reason as he appears to play for both sides, if you follow the action.

Hard to name all the Blues. There is Martina-Pennington-Kenny, but I don't see Jags (heavily strapped yesterday) or Robinson and I'm not sure who the fourth defender is. In midfield there is Schneiderlin-Davies-Dowell and attack Lookman-Niasse-Sandro.

Anyone able to fill in the gaps..? Keepers would be a total guestimate by me.

Edit: Aha! Feeney is the Blues other defender. You can see him better in the still images on this link.

Steve Ferns
49 Posted 11/07/2018 at 10:41:21
Jay, I thought it was Matty Foulds. Morgan Feeney is very ginger, and I didn't spot him on any of the still images and did think I saw him on the U23 stuff.

Anyone else have a view?

Oh and come on England!

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

50 Posted 11/07/2018 at 11:22:57
"Feeney is very ginger".

An unfortunate 'old school' phrase, but innocently applied!

I think you're right, Steve, about Foulds. The short cropped hair fooled me as that is Feeney's default 'barnet'.

If as you say you saw Feeney with the U-23s and this places Foulds with the first team, that alone is interesting.

And I know it was only an 8-minute video, but I was also intrigued by the absentees. Okay, Jags was seen heavily strapped the previous day, so no surprise he sat out the game.

And maybe missing players were rotated in that we don't see, but where were Williams, Bolasie and Mirallas?

Steve Ferns
51 Posted 11/07/2018 at 11:35:48
I can't be sure if it was Foulds, Jay, the pics were too blurry and not close up. It could be Connelly?

Dunno about you, but I've searched twitter and the rumour mill for news of Robinson and keep drawing a blank. He must have a knock and be sitting out. Very unfortunate for the young lad if so.

My fear is that he didn't travel, and he's off negotiating a loan move. However, the longer it goes on without him surfacing somewhere, the more likely he is to be at Finch Farm nursing an injury.

Victor Yu
52 Posted 13/07/2018 at 10:23:44
Kane disappears faster than Lukaku in the big games during the world cup.

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