France meet Belgium on Tuesday night with the incentive being a place in the World Cup final.
This has the potential to be the most entertaining match of the tournament so far with Belgium scoring the most goals up to this point and France’s frightening attacking force having proved they can score goals for fun.
France come into this after comfortably beating Uruguay 2-0 thanks to a Raphael Varane header and a Fernando Muslera howler.
Meanwhile, Belgium shocked the world when they knocked Brazil out after a 2-1 victory. Their flawless counter-attacking ability that was on show against Brazil and the slight change in system highlights their flexibility and unpredictability.
Ahead of the game, we have brought together both teams and have chosen what we believe is the best-combined XI.
GK: Thibaut Courtois
This was the toughest choice of the XI. Two world-class goalkeepers with very different strengths and arguably, either would do the job. Thibaut Courtois just edged it because he is more reliable than Huge Lloris. The Tottenham goalkeeper can pull off some brilliant saves but then, equally, can make routine saves look difficult. Courtois’ height gave him an advantage because he is extremely competent in dealing with high balls. The Belgian made 11 saves vs Brazil, a World Cup record and that is why he is between the sticks in this team.
RB: Benjamin Pavard
The French defender has stormed on to the national stage after a fantastic season with Stuttgart. The World Cup debutant had a rough first couple of games but has made the right-back position his own and even scored a potential goal of the tournament contender. It will be interesting to see how he gets on against the mesmerising Eden Hazard but he deserves to start in this team over Thomas Meunier.
CB: Raphael Varane
Another tough choice deciding between Raphael Varane or Toby Alderweireld for the centre-back position but the latter’s fitness issues and problems this season with Tottenham meant that Real Madrid’s Champions League winner just pipped him to the starting XI. Varane offers power and aerial ability but also lightning pace that allows him to recover from errors easier than most other defenders. He also offers a winning mentality to the rest of the team that he’s picked up over the past several seasons that is invaluable.
CB: Vincent Kompany
The Manchester City centre-half has had his fair share of injury troubles himself but whenever he’s fully fit, he returns as a world-class defender. Vincent Kompany is a rock in defence and a leader of men. Although he might have lost a couple of yards of pace over the years, his footballing brain and perfect positioning means he doesn’t necessarily require pace. He’s a threat in both boxes and is perfectly capable of helping the team with a goal or two if needed. This was an easy choice and he would be captain of the team.
LB: Jan Vertonghen
Jan Vertonghen has quickly become one of the world’s best defenders. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is not afraid of going into a battle with anyone. He can over step the mark at times but it’s only because he wants to win at all costs. Vertonghen is perfectly capable of playing at left-back for both Tottenham and Belgium and has done so on numerous occasions. His tactical awareness is brilliant and has a great left foot when it comes to crossing on the overlap. Lucas Hernandez has had a poor tournament so this was an easy decision.
CDM: N'Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante would be the first name on the team sheet given what he does for the team defensively, what he offers them energetically and because the alternatives are at a much lower level to him. Kante has been the Premier League’s best central midfielder the last three seasons and it’s difficult to put into words just how important he is to both Chelsea and France. He’s often described as a ‘bumblebee’ because he never gives the attackers a moments peace and is constantly buzzing around the pitch. He never gets the praise and recognition that he fully deserves.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne would start in every international and club team in the world, that is how good he is. In any normal season, he would have been crowned PFA Player of the Season but for Mohamed Salah’s freak season. He is the perfect box-to-box midfielder because of his energy and immense ability on the ball. He is a game-changer and can win a match by himself. His performance against Brazil was incredible and was largely due to him being pushed into a more central attacking role. The Belgian is a world-class player and the Belgium national side is blessed to have someone like him in their ranks.
RM: Kylian Mbappe
The Paris Saint-Germain star has had quite an indifferent World Cup so far. His best performance to date was against Argentina in the Round of 16 where he caused Marcos Rojo all sorts of issues. However, he was quiet in their last game against Uruguay and didn’t start the group game against Denmark. Despite this, you can’t leave the world’s best youngster on the pitch and the width and pace he offers on the counter attack cannot be ignored.
LM: Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard has surprised many this tournament as he has lit the World Cup up. He had a poor season with Chelsea despite some positive performances and lots of people are questioning if he is playing for a move, potentially to Real Madrid. The winger offers unpredictability, quick feet and quality on the ball. His relationship with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne was one of the main reasons why they all had to be in this squad. Hazard hasn’t shown his remarkable ability much in recent times but this World Cup he has proven that he is still a world-class player that can win games on his own.
CF: Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann has struggled this World Cup and hasn’t yet raised the roof. His relationship with his strike partner, Olivier Giroud, has shown cracks and they haven’t hit the ground running. Griezmann has three goals this tournament but two have come from the penalty spot and the other was a goalkeeping error. However, the Atletico Madrid attacker has proved his ability on countless occasions for his club and therefore, there is hope that he will come good for France eventually. His potential is undoubted and that is why he gets a place in this XI.
ST: Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku will feel slightly aggrieved that he isn’t the current golden boot leader due to the chances he squandered against Japan and the goals Harry Kane has scored but he has had a brilliant tournament so far and was arguably one of the best players on the pitch against Brazil. His power and pace means he will be a massive danger to France’s inexperienced defence and can score all types of goals. The slight tactical switch to move Lukaku out to the right in their last game means that he is also unpredictable and versatile. The Manchester United marksman is a classic number nine and was always going to lead the line in this combined XI.