SEMIFINAL #1: FRANCE vs. BELGIUM

DJnVa

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Two teams completely unfamiliar with each other battle to....wait. What? Oh.

European neighbors that share a nearly 400 mile border battle to play another UEFA team in the finals.

If you make it this far, you're most likely going to be playing pretty well. And these teams have been 2 of the most impressive so far in this tourney. France is looking to make their 3 final, while Belgium has never advanced to the semis.

France strikes early, Belgium levels before the half, then we go to OT after a lot of second half drama, where Lukaku sends Belgium through.
 

Ale Xander

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Nick Bakay's tale of the tape:

Frites - push
Crepes - push
low level Alcohol - best wine v. best beer - push
Edible molluscs - escargot v. mussels - push
Carb-loaded breakfast items - croissants v. waffles - push
Cheese - huge edge France
Chocolat - huge edge Belgium

Unfortunately, tie-breaker : Armagnac

France looks like they have the edge
 

Zososoxfan

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I know Meunier is suspended, are any others? Meunier's suspension looms large. I thought he had an OUTSTANDING game at RB, keeping Ney, Couts, and Marcelo from creating tons of chances.
 

Nuf Ced

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Nick Bakay's tale of the tape:

Frites - push
Crepes - push
low level Alcohol - best wine v. best beer - push
Edible molluscs - escargot v. mussels - push
Carb-loaded breakfast items - croissants v. waffles - push
Cheese - huge edge France
Chocolat - huge edge Belgium

Unfortunately, tie-breaker : Armagnac

France looks like they have the edge
It's so unlike Nick to forget Calvados. And the French also have Kouign-amann. But I'll be rooting for the Red Devils.
 

Gunfighter 09

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So Martinez has to play Dembele in this one to keep Pogba and Kante from completely destroying them in the middle, right?
 

teddykgb

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Dembele is turning into a hybrid of Vieira and Makelele with every match he doesn’t start for club and country.

Edit: this reads way snarkier than I intended it to be on a subsequent read. I’m leaving it for clarity but it was meant as a really lighthearted joke
 
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Zososoxfan

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So Martinez has to play Dembele in this one to keep Pogba and Kante from completely destroying them in the middle, right?
If Martinez hasn't started him yet (England doesn't count), I don't see why he would now, unless Moose plays or one of Witsel, Fellaini (lol) or Chadli slides into a FB spot. Honestly, I think that's probably the key for Belgium. They can't go 3 at the back in this one, so who slots in with the 3 CBs. It could be Vermaelen (shifting Toby out wide) or Boyata. Dendoncker seems like a bad fit, but we really need @Dummy Hoy to chime in here. I think the defensive approach will be similar to the Brazil match--concede possession and hunker in deep, and isolate the wing players. France has a lot of talent obviously on the wings, but what may make them a more difficult challenge is that Giroud requires more attention from CBs than Gabi Jesus did (and that is why Firmino came on early). Willian was suffocated and was useless (Douglas was much better and more dynamic) and Ney/Couts/Marcelo had some success down the left, but Belgium was always going have trouble defending that trio and most of the trouble was kept to the corner of the box.

As for the setup going forward, Martinez and the staff were very astute about how they went out against Brazil. There was clearly a plan to attack the space in behind Marcelo and get KDB forward. France's FBs will stay home much more as they are a more balanced team than Brazil. Varane is faster than Miranda and Umtiti is as strong and younger than Thiago Silva, so the middle doesn't look too good. Where I think France can be had is in possession in the MF. Kante has had an incredible tournament and he shields the entire defensive line, but (I think) he's just one guy. Pogba helps out a bit and Tolisso/Matuidi do too, but since France play fairly deep to avoid getting hit on the break, Belgium may consider trying to possess with KDB, Hazard, Lukaku and one late MF runner (Chadli and Fellaini taking turns) just in front of the backline. The other option that looks promising (in a minor way) would be overloading Pavard's side and letting Hazard take him on repeatedly. Varane and Kante will certainly help Pavard on defense, but some combination play down that side seems like a good bet, especially with Hazard on form.

This is shaping up to be a MF battle since both teams will want to avoid getting hit on the break. The onus is a bit more on France IMO because Belgium had to have a fair amount of luck against Brazil to keep them to one goal, but I bet neither team sees it that way. France will attack the whole backline and I think Giroud (and Griezmann and Pogba if they drift centrally) will be the danger players. Belgium should try to pick on Pavard whenever possible and should have chances to get possession in advanced positions, but they will be cautious about leaving their backline too exposed against France's wingers (especially Mbappe).
 

Dummy Hoy

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I have no clue what Belgium will do. I think I've been pretty on point about this team for most of the tournament, including the changes needed against Brazil, but I'm very unsure of how they approach this game.
@Zososoxfan has the right of it, nether team will want to be countered, which is why I think France plays do-it-all Matuidi instead of Lemar or Fekir or someone.
*Side note- how much fun would this game be if both teams just lined up and threw everything forward at eachother? We'd have a 6-5 game.*
I think that means France's biggest threat is Mbappe and Griezmann running through on looks from Pogba or Kante, or Giroud holding up and laying off to them overlapping. I think much of that pressure comes down the right, and so unless you want that 6-5 game, Carrasco cannot start again.

If I was to take a stab at it I think we see a back four with Vertonghen out left, Vermaelen and Kompany in the middle (with Vincent just assaulting Giroud all day) and Alderwiereld pushed out right. I think we see Witsel/Fellaini in the middle, and my only question is Dembele or Chadli as the third DM. I'd be inclined towards Dembele, but that just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. I'd guess Chadli, pushing towards the left to help with Mbappe. I think the front 3 is Lukaku/Hazard/DeBruyne again, but I'd be a bit surprised to see them in the same set-up. I'd guess Lukaku more central, with Debruyne behind and Hazard free to roam...given the French talk about how they stopped Messi, I'd guess they focus on Hazard with Kante (unless all the talk is a ruse!!). If Hazard if freed to pull Kante around, that leaves Pogba fairly isolated in the middle (perhaps some help from Matuidi?).

But fuck me if I know. France recovers against counters so well, it's going to take Belgium finishing better than they did against Brazil to win this.
 

McBride11

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I need a way to cancel my afternoon clinic.

Debating partially watching between patients OR just waiting for DVR this evening and trying to avoid all spoilers. Tough choices
 

Zososoxfan

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I have no clue what Belgium will do. I think I've been pretty on point about this team for most of the tournament, including the changes needed against Brazil, but I'm very unsure of how they approach this game.
@Zososoxfan has the right of it, nether team will want to be countered, which is why I think France plays do-it-all Matuidi instead of Lemar or Fekir or someone.
*Side note- how much fun would this game be if both teams just lined up and threw everything forward at eachother? We'd have a 6-5 game.*
I think that means France's biggest threat is Mbappe and Griezmann running through on looks from Pogba or Kante, or Giroud holding up and laying off to them overlapping. I think much of that pressure comes down the right, and so unless you want that 6-5 game, Carrasco cannot start again.

If I was to take a stab at it I think we see a back four with Vertonghen out left, Vermaelen and Kompany in the middle (with Vincent just assaulting Giroud all day) and Alderwiereld pushed out right. I think we see Witsel/Fellaini in the middle, and my only question is Dembele or Chadli as the third DM. I'd be inclined towards Dembele, but that just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. I'd guess Chadli, pushing towards the left to help with Mbappe. I think the front 3 is Lukaku/Hazard/DeBruyne again, but I'd be a bit surprised to see them in the same set-up. I'd guess Lukaku more central, with Debruyne behind and Hazard free to roam...given the French talk about how they stopped Messi, I'd guess they focus on Hazard with Kante (unless all the talk is a ruse!!). If Hazard if freed to pull Kante around, that leaves Pogba fairly isolated in the middle (perhaps some help from Matuidi?).

But fuck me if I know. France recovers against counters so well, it's going to take Belgium finishing better than they did against Brazil to win this.
Thanks Dummy. I think you're right about the back 4. Giroud is a good matchup for Vermaelen and it will let Vincent focus on Mbappe, although those roles could easily be flipped. I trust Kompany in space just a touch more than Vermaelen. In any event, those two will have to adjust based on what France does, with the free man helping the FB to their side. It sounds crazy, but Mbappe is almost more dangerous than Griezmann at this point (I think this is specific to the international game and this France squad, but I digress). The other thing that Belgium will do is have Fellaini help on Griezmann and Chadli (I think he starts ahead of Moose) pitch in with Mbappe. I was floored by how well Chadli played against Brazil and I think they need his speed and threat going forward at least early on to keep Pavard at home, which Moose won't be able to do. Considering how much Witsel and Fellaini will have to work, I bet we see Dembele at some point. I could definitely see Roberto telling one of his MF that they are only playing 60 minutes and their role will be to help on defense but also join every attack they can and run their legs off. This presumes that Carrasco and Mertens don't start again, which I think is correct. Either one would be an effective sub going against tired legs and would require less of them on defense.

I think your point about France's defense is interesting. If Kante is tasked with shutting down Hazard, then that leaves the other two French MF to deal with KDB. I love Pogba, Matuidi less so (I was impressed with Tolisso but understand going with experience over youth at least to start) but I don't think those guys can contain KDB with Fellaini and Chadli pushing up. If anything, I'd expect France to have Kante lightly shadow KDB except when he drops deep, where Pogba or Matuidi/Tolisso can pick him up. Hazard is crazy dangerous on the wing, but if Pavard stays home and Varane helps him (with Kante and other mids keeping an eye too), they may be able to isolate Hazard. All of this leads me to Lukaku. I have so much respect for him and KDB it's hard to overstate. I saw some analysis yesterday indicating that Umtiti can get overzealous in pursuit sometimes and while I don't necessarily agree (it doesn't resonate as particularly right or wrong), it does make sense that the gameplan could include Lukaku posting him up and trying to get runners in behind. I do think that is Belgium's best tactic for this match - get Lukaku the ball in front of the CBs to draw them out and combine with KDB, Hazard, Chadli, and Fellaini while trying to get in behind. That and let Hazard work miracles on the wing if France focus their defense on Lukaku and KDB. Chadli could also be a key man if he has enough time to push forward and overlap an inverted Hazard. One last thing, if France sits in very deep, I would certainly let KDB and Lukaku pick up the ball from 25-30 yards out and take a few blasts. It's not elegant and is not a common strategy in the modern game, but it is low risk and if that's what the defense gives you, take it at least to some degree and keep them honest.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Thanks to the recent Backwash thread. I totally read this as some sort of ironic "Thanks, Obama!"
The first time I met Rip, Fletch, Browndog (and someone else was there...sorry, it was a long day) we met up at the Banshee in Dot to watch a Celtic game (may have been Old Firm, not positive). Rip wondered how they would recognize me, because just going up to people getting pissed on a Saturday morning and saying “are you Dummy?” might end with a mouthful of broken teeth.

I should have gone with William Ellsworth Hoy.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Lineup I’m seeing has the group I called, but with Carrasco instead of Fellaini. No clue...I’d guess Carrasco in to give a threat down the left to keep Mbappe from getting any help? Fascinating stuff if true.


Good luck today Justin.

I think France nicks it but I'm not sure.
Cheers buddy.
 

singaporesoxfan

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The first time I met Rip, Fletch, Browndog (and someone else was there...sorry, it was a long day) we met up at the Banshee in Dot to watch a Celtic game (may have been Old Firm, not positive). Rip wondered how they would recognize me, because just going up to people getting pissed on a Saturday morning and saying “are you Dummy?” might end with a mouthful of broken teeth.

I should have gone with William Ellsworth Hoy.
“Ahoy Hoy” works
 

bosox4283

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Lineup I’m seeing has the group I called, but with Carrasco instead of Fellaini. No clue...I’d guess Carrasco in to give a threat down the left to keep Mbappe from getting any help? Fascinating stuff if true.
Where do you see lineup at this point? I thought we'd see something released around 1pm.
 

Dummy Hoy

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I was on LiveScore.com

They’re usually pretty accurate about the personnel, if not always the formation.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Forget my LiveScore promotion...
The official twitter feed has back 3, Fellaini, Witsel, Chadli, and...Dembele in midfield, and the front 3.


Still not sure how that midfield will be deployed.
 

Zososoxfan

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I just saw a lineup that included Dembele and not Vermaelen! 3-4-3/3-5-2!!

Courtois

Toby-Vince-Super Jan

Axel-Fellaini-Moose

Chadli-KDB

Lukaku-Hazard
 

Zososoxfan

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Forget my LiveScore promotion...
The official twitter feed has back 3, Fellaini, Witsel, Chadli, and...Dembele in midfield, and the front 3.


Still not sure how that midfield will be deployed.
Beaten by seconds! Yeah, I have no idea how they intend to defend the right flank, down the left I assume Moose or Chadli will pickup Mbappe to let Jan stay central. On the right, maybe Fellaini (or Witsel) marks Griezmann on the wing? I can't imagine they want to let the backline defend the middle with 2, so you have to think the MF will be charged with guarding the wings. However, in the Brazil match Belgium defended very narrowly and conceded possession on the wings. Perhaps the idea is to defend in 2 lines of 3-4?

Courtois

Toby-Vice-Jan

Moose-Fellaini-Witsel-Chadli
 

Dummy Hoy

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I’m guessing Fellaini tracks Pogba and Chadli tracks Mbappe. Witsel and Dembele cover the middle in front of the back 3 and keep an eye on Griezmann while the back 3 engage in a knife fight with Giroud.

But who knows.
 

bosox4283

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Who is Moose?

If you were playing fantasy football -- the FIFA thing -- might you consider Fellaini, Dembele, or Chadli? Basically, you want someone that might score or give an assist.

Edit: My feeling is Chadli.
 

Dummy Hoy

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I think the idea is that the front 3 can generate enough offense on their own. Which normally would be crazy, but when you’re talking Hazard, Lukaku, DeBruyne, it’s possible.

Edit: Moose= Mousa (Dembele)
 

Clears Cleaver

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Feels like Manager is feeling a bit empowered after beating Brazil. Debele never plays right back. Mbappe likes to attack on the left, could be a huge mismatch
 

Zososoxfan

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Despite the excitement, this likely means that Chadli and Moose playing as WBs. I guess you could drop either one of them into a back 4 as well. Since Griezmann doesn't play as wide as Mbappe, it will be interesting to see whether France moves Mbappe to one side or another and if so, do Belgium follow with a countermove.
 

Ale Xander

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I’m guessing Fellaini tracks Pogba and Chadli tracks Mbappe. Witsel and Dembele cover the middle in front of the back 3 and keep an eye on Griezmann while the back 3 engage in a knife fight with Giroud.

But who knows.
I think France is too deep to have a 3rd man on Giroud, but what do I know.
 

candylandriots

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It bugs me that of the four semi-finalists, three played a mailed-in game in group play. Surely I’d feel differently if I were managing one of the teams, but it sucks that the one side that is left that didn’t do that has played the rough equivalent of three games in the last week or so.
 

Zososoxfan

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It bugs me that of the four semi-finalists, three played a mailed-in game in group play. Surely I’d feel differently if I were managing one of the teams, but it sucks that the one side that is left that didn’t do that has played the rough equivalent of three games in the last week or so.
Why? Croatia was already through going into the Iceland match and it was the manager's decision to rest only some players and not others.
 

Zososoxfan

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Michael Cox thinks Chadli at RB in a straight 4-3-3 with Dembele/Fellaini helping with Mbappe.

This makes a lot of sense too. I'd have one MF shading towards Mbappe at all times to make sure he doesn't get loose against Jan. If Chadli pushes forward though, I wonder if Mbappe will switch sides and try to get in behind and if he doesn't, then does Griezmann try to do that instead?
 

Zososoxfan

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No surprises from France:

Lloris

Pavard-Varane-Umtiti-Hernandez

Pogba-Kante-Matuidi

Mbappe-Giroud-Griezmann

If they need a goal, I wonder if they will bring on Dembele for Matuidi. Belgium's D would get stretched mighty thin with Ousmane and Mbappe on the outside, opening space for Giroud and Griez thru the middle.
 

candylandriots

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Why? Croatia was already through going into the Iceland match and it was the manager's decision to rest only some players and not others.
Mostly because I spent a lot of money to watch the snooze-fest that was Denmark-France, and I vowed not to support either team for playing the way they did. I was really excited to see them play, and they didn’t. It was embarrassing watching the players in 0-0 match beg the ref to end the game. I didn’t watch England-Belgium, but to be consistent, I feel the same about what they did.

It’s mostly me being an old man yelling at clouds.
 

Zososoxfan

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Mostly because I spent a lot of money to watch the snooze-fest that was Denmark-France, and I vowed not to support either team for playing the way they did. I was really excited to see them play, and they didn’t. It was embarrassing watching the players in 0-0 match beg the ref to end the game. I didn’t watch England-Belgium, but to be consistent, I feel the same about what they did.

It’s mostly me being an old man yelling at clouds.
Fair enough. I was in Frankfurt for Argentina-Netherlands in 06. First half was played straight, but after a lot of chances but no goals, both teams packed it in for the second half.
 

Zososoxfan

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Belgium very aggressive in possession. 3-3-4 of sorts with Fellaini a second target man with Lukaku. Hazard looks up for this. Chadli pushing way high, making it a 3-2-5 at times.
 

fletcherpost

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I'm saying it now. I want the full 120 minutes for this match. I'm neutral veering towards Belgium, but I could watch these two teams play all day. Hazard looks really sharp. Chadli, not so much.
 

ifmanis5

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These are the two best teams of the tournament to my eyes. Unfortunate that they were in the same group and the same side of the bracket. Wow, thought that was going in.