France vs Belgium: Team News, Lineups and Predictions
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France vs Belgium: Team News, Lineups and Predictions

30/06/24 11:44

Both Belgium and France will be looking for vastly improved performances when they meet in what in previous years would have been labeled as the game to watch in the round of 16.

But this tournament has seen both nations struggle in their own ways. France scored just two goals in the group stage, their lowest tally at this point in a major tournament since the 2010 World Cup, whilst Belgium, booed off after their 0-0 draw with Ukraine, are also struggling to score, at least in a legal fashion, as striker Romelu Lukaku leads the disallowed goals tally. Neither topped their group.

Despite their shortcomings so far, it should be testament to the strength of both sides that they managed to navigate what could be described as a tricky group stage for both, and the winning nation would carry serious momentum into the quarter-finals after beating a dangerous opposition.

Having been drawn on the same side of the drew as Spain, Portugal and holders Germany, who advanced to the quarter finals last night after a convincing 2-0 defeat of Denmark, it is vital that the winning team treat their round of 16 meeting as a turning point if they are to challenge for the title of “European Champions”.

Both nations should be able to field a fully fit squad, and the return of Kylian Mbappe up front for France could be the deciding factor in what promises to be a close-fought battle.

The two giants are very familiar with each other, having faced-off 75 times prior to the tournament. France have faced Belgium almost twice as often as any other country (Italy and Switzerland place second with 39 meetings), while only the Netherlands have played Belgium more frequently (with a staggering 129 editions). Unfamiliarity cannot be an excuse for the losing side.

What you need to know

France form (most recent on the right): WDWDD.

Belgium form: WWLWD.

Where: Dusseldorf Arena, Dusseldorf, 5pm BST.

Where can I watch: ITV 1, ITV X.

Predicted Lineups

France (4-3-3): Maignan (GK), Kounde, Upamecano, Saliba, Hernandez, Kante, Tchouameni, Rabiot, Griezmann, Dembele, Mbappe.

Belgium (4-2-3-1): Casteels (GK), Castagne, Faes, Vertonghen, Theate, Tielemans, Onana, Lukebakio, De Bruyne, Doku, Lukaku.

Prediction

The last time the two neighbours met in a major tournament, a spot in the 2018 World Cup final was on the line. France came out of that one victorious, in an engrossing, high quality match-up that somehow ended only 1-0. They also met in the 2020/21 Nations League semi-finals, and France once again emerged as 3-2 winners, this time by staging a remarkable second half comeback after Belgium struck twice in the first half. It could be seen as an omen that in both of these recent tournament fixtures between the two, the winner went on to be crowned champions.

However poor these two are playing at the moment, they always seem to bring the best (and at times, the worst) out of each other. This could be down to the aforementioned familiarity, but more likely it is down to the hunger and desire to to hold bragging rights over their talented neighbors, especially on a stage where it means so much to win. It’s a game where you can’t help but expect quality, and I expect both teams to clean up their so far somewhat shoddy acts and play out a thrilling spectacle.

Belgium are somewhat short at the back, playing Championship center back Wout Faes and talented but unproven Rennes left back Arthur Theate, and ultimately, against the likes of Dembele, Griezmann and Mbappe, I believe that will be their downfall, unless Lukaku is able to figure out the offside rule in the hours before kick-off.

Score prediction: 2-1 France.

Extra prediction: This game will be decided by the absolute barest of margins.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Harry Pascoe

Football Writer

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