【幸运飞艇_飞艇下载网站_幸运飞艇下载网站】Belgium and France evenly matched heading into World Cup semifinal

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Paul Giblin

ST PETERSBURG, July 9 (Xinhua) -- The first semifinal of the 2018 World Cup between France and Belgium promises the grit of a local derby and the tension that such an occasion demands. Two evenly matched sides with two distinct styles of play will battle it out for a chance to lift the biggest trophy in the game.

Here are some of the key battles that could prove to be decisive.

Both Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois came into the World Cup with a few question marks over their form after slightly disappointing domestic seasons. Both goalkeepers have been excellent so far, with Courtois vital in his side's wins over Brazil and also Japan, where he not only produced a string of excellent saves, but also showed the quickness of thought to give the pass that led to the winning goal.

Both France and Belgium have been solid in central defense with French duo Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti showing that their Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry in Spain is no handicap to forming a balanced partnership in defense.

The Belgian duo of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld combine pace with the ability to play the ball out from the back. Eden Hazard is going to be one of the players of the tournament; his pace and ability to get past his defender is vital to Belgium's success. Against Brazil he also showed leadership looking for the ball and holding it up as Brazil searched for a way back into the game.

Meanwhile France's Kylian Mbappe produced arguably the best individual performance of the World Cup against Argentina when he became the first teenager since Pele to score in the World Cup finals. Argentina had no answer to his pace and he will look to get in behind Belgium's attacking full backs on Tuesday night.

Olivier Giroud may have his critics, but his return to the France starting 11 gave his side a focus. He is a threat in the air and his ability to hold the ball up and play with his back to goal helps bring the best out of Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe.

Romelu Lukaku is the closest approximation of Giroud that Belgium has; although despite his size, he is not a traditional number 9 like his French counterpart. Lukaku has pace and power; he's not so good with his back to goal perhaps, but faster that the Frenchman and able to play a wide role if needed.

And finally, N'golo Kante, France's midfield dynamo: his teammates say having him in the side is like playing with 12 such is his work rate and ability to win possession. It will be fascinating to see how he operates on Tuesday, but with so much pace in both teams, Kante could be the launchpad for Mbappe and Griezmann to book a ticket to Moscow.