Lee Davy takes a look at the odds of the World Cup match between France and Belgium, as the only two sides left in the strongest side of the draw battle it out for a place in the final.
A man I know is in a fix.
He woke up, went to work, barely registering the nakedness lying next to him. After a shift that would make a wolf bare its fangs, he’s off to the gym to pump iron, a quick stop at the taco truck and then off to the pub to sink a few before the game starts.
Only none of that happened.
Well, not all of it.
He got as far as the gym, pumped his weights, but when he came out, his car wouldn’t start. So he called the nakedness and asked her to drive to meet him.
“Bring the jump leads.”
“It’s an emergency.”
The phone went down.
She turns up and explains that his request to bring the jump leads was inconvenient giving all she has on.
“It’s the World Cup!”
He never said another word.
Neither did she.
She threw the jumper cables at him, slipped into her car and left him on the pavement.
And now he comes to me, wanting my help.
One of a million men experiencing the same problem up and down the country right now.
The Europeans Rule
One thing we know with certainty – a European team will win the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If you know anything about football, and you like to have a flutter, you would have laid every South American side in the competition from the off.
No South American side has won in Europe since 1958, and even then it took a Pele inspired Brazilian team to blow the flame out on that old candle.
One of them will win the World Cup.
As I stated in my odds round-up of the Quarter-Finals, it’s unusual for a first-timer to win the World Cup. Spain did so in 2010 with one of the best sides the world has ever seen. France won in their backyard in 1998.
So, I don’t fancy Belgium or Croatia’s chances.
But I’m not a bookmaker.
France v Belgium: What You Need to Know.
Firstly, here are the odds.
As you can see, France is the slight favourite despite Belgium having the most skilled individuals of any team remaining in the competition, and ranking higher in the FIFA World Rankings #3 v #7. The bookies know the one star above the French emblem means something. The Belgians don’t have one.
France is the more experienced side.
They have made the Semi-Finals on five occasions, winning in 1998, and losing to Italy on penalties in the 2006 final.
Here are the French results so far.
Australia (W) 2 – 1 (Griezmann (pen), own goal).
Peru (W) 1 – 0 (Mbappe)
Denmark (D) 0 – 0
Round of 16
Argentina (W) 4 – 3 (Griezman (pen), Pavard, Mbappe (2))
Uruguay (W) 2 – 0 (Varane, Griezmann).
Griezmann – 3
Mbappe – 3
Two players have to click for France to be on point in this one. The defence seems stable with N’Golo Kante shielding from midfield. Paul Pogba is prancing about in midfield like a puffed-up peacock. And so it’s up front where the French need to come up with the goods.
Forget Olivier Giroud’s perfectly manicured face.
Let’s focus on Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. Both of them have three goals, with Mbappe becoming the youngest Frenchman to ever score at a World Cup when he snagged the winning goal against Peru. Against Argentina, the teenager was supreme; more subdued, against Uruguay. France will want to see the lad who tore Argentina to pieces.
Griezmann is the French talisman.
The Atletico Madrid striker, who committed his long-term future to the club before the World Cup, has never lost an international when he has scored (16 wins, two draws), and he is scoring in a lot of internationals.
Switch this pair ‘on’ and France can win the World Cup, Olympics Bobsled Championship and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 Tag Team event.
The Belgians are the only side left in the competition who has won all five of their games. In fact, since Roberto Martinez took over the reins, they have lost only once in 24 internationals, and that was his first game in charge against a dominant Spanish side.
And the Belgians are still unsure?
Stick to your Tintin.
The Belgians have one of the most iconic Frenchmen in their ranks. Thierry Henry won 123 caps for his country, winning both the World Cup and European Championships, and he will be seated in the Belgian dugout as a part of the coaching staff.
Many people laughed (I did) when Belgium beat England to move into the most challenging section of the brackets, but it hasn’t bothered the men who love their fries.
The last-minute comeback against Japan would have created a brick like solidarity in spirit, and they were terrific in patches against Brazil. Can they beat France? Of course, they can, but everyone will have to be on top of their game.
Kevin De Bruyne.
A sound defence.
A world-class goalkeeper.
I’m beginning to change my mind.
Back on course.
I think it must be the loss against the Welsh in the Euros still fresh in my mind, coupled with the early action in the Japan game, that reminds me of the frailty of Belgium as a team unit.
Belgium has only made the Semi-Finals once before, in 1986, when Diego Maradona played with them as a cat plays with the balls of the biggest rat in Rat Park.
Here is Belgium’s record thus far.
Panama (W) 3 – 0 (Lukaku (2), Mertens)
Tunisia (W) 5 – 2 (Eden Hazard (2), Lukaku (2), Batshuayi)
England (W) 1 – 0 (Januzaj)
Round of 16
Japan (W) 3 – 2 (Vertonghen, Fellaini, Chadli)
Brazil (W) 2 – 1 (Own goal, De Bruyne)
Lukaku – 4
For – 14
Against – 5
The pair meets in St Petersburg on Tuesday, kick-off 7 pm (BST) where France will win via a penalty shootout.