France got here via a relatively uneventful 2-0 victory over an Edison Cavani-less Uruguay to make their first semifinal in 12 years. Uruguay were putting up a spirited resistance down 1-0 until the 61st minute when Antoine Griezmann hit a hard but stoppable shot that Uruguay’s keeper, Fernando Muslera, made a mess of and the ball slipped over the line. That seemed to deflate the South Americans and it was all over down 2-0.
Belgium’s 2-1 win over Brazil was anything but uneventful. Brazil had the run of play early and were creating chances including a Thiago Silva effort off the post, but then Own Goal put on his Golden Boot and showed up again as Fernandinho expertly finished a corner kick into his own net for the 1-0 Belgian lead. The Red Devils then doubled their lead in the 31st minute with a tremendous counter attack started by Romelu Lukaku and finished by Kevin De Bruyne. Brazil then seized control of the match, but Thibaut Courtois was up to the challenge making his case for the Golden Glove award as only Renato Augusto was able to score and it finished 2-1. This will be only Belgium’s second foray into the World Cup semifinals.
On a personal note, since so many of you reached out about your author’s move to Amsterdam over the weekend let’s give you an update: We made it. My biggest piece of advice is when you can ship personal effects or take them on the airplane, ship as much as you can ESPECIALLY if you are traveling with a one year old. But my wife, baby and I are settled into our apartment in Amsterdam in an area called De Pijp. We are still waiting on internet, TV and a phone hook up (a landline, how quaint) so this article is being written and published via tethering on my mobile and I will be watching tonight’s game at the much more civilized 8 PM kickoff from a pub.
France vs. Belgium
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
TV: FOX (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: John Strong and Stu Holden (English)
France versus Belgium, the final that is just a semifinal.
With two of the most talented teams in this tournament, this game will go a long way to be a career defining match for a generation of players. Belgian’s “Golden Generation” including Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois and more can live up to the hype and make a World Cup final or be like so many other “Golden Generations” such as David Beckham’s England, Luis Figo’s Portugal, Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast, Carlos Valderrama’s Colombia and just be an interesting footnotes in someone’s book about soccer development.
France squad is less about a generation of players and more about the fact that they have been producing great players for a long time and now the team seems to be growing into the tournament and getting better as it goes on. The addition of Kylian Mbappé to the likes of Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba has given the French the additional pace that has proved crucial to unlocking defenses.
While Mbappé could possibly be the youngest Golden Ball winner in World Cup history, this match will likely come down to how two Chelsea teammates perform. Eden Hazard is the key for a lot of the Belgian offense, while N’Golo Kanté is probably the best defensive midfielder in the world. Who wins the battle for that space will likely win the game.