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France vs Belgium: De Bruyne free to fire Red Devils into final

France vs Belgium Match Preview and Predictions

France are the new favourites to win the World Cup ahead of their semi-final showdown with Belgium's 'golden generation' in St Petersburg.

These two teams have helped ensure there is a guaranteed European winner of the tournament in Russia, with France having eliminated Argentina and Uruguay in the knockout stage while Belgium beat Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Belgium are now on the brink of their first ever World Cup final and France are aiming to repeat their success on home soil 20 years ago.

France vs Belgium Betting Tips

The lowdown

Both of these teams were ranked among the leading contenders to win the World Cup before the tournament began and have shown glimpses of why they could go all the way.

France eased through their group without really hitting top gear but came alive, from an attacking sense at least, in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Argentina.

They then produced a more defensive-minded display in a 2-0 win against Uruguay - giving us three winning World Cup tips - and Les Bleus striker Antoine Griezmann believes the ability to be flexible with their tactics is crucial to France's hopes.

The Atletico Madrid star, who scored one goal and set up the other, said: "I don't think we have a style that is set. We observe what happens during the match and we have people who know how to manage the game. hey know when to stop and when to move in attack."

Belgium have scored the most goals at the World Cup with 14 - three more than England and Russia - and this could be an entertaining match for the neutrals.

Belgium won 4-3 in the last meeting between these neighbouring countries in 2015 and although they are the underdogs, we think Belgium can qualify at 11/10 as the first of our France vs Belgium betting tips.

First goalscorer tips

Romelu Lukaku's hopes of winning the World Cup Golden Boot have faded after failing to find the net against Japan and Brazil, having netted twice against both Panama and Tunisia

He continued to be a menace in both games though and set up the second goal against Brazil. The expected goals data shows he has been on the receiving end of better chances than Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, plus we still have concerns about the France defence, so back Lukaku to score first at 9/2.

Anytime goalscorer tips

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez decided to start with Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli against Brazil, with the midfielders having transformed the game as substitutes in the fightback against Japan.

That freed Kevin De Bruyne to play in a more advanced role and the Manchester City midfielder revelled in the space Brazil continually gave him. If Belgium go with the same formation, De Bruyne looks great value to get on the scoresheet at 7/2.

Where the game will be won or lost

The talent in the Belgium squad has never been in question but whether Martinez could gel them into a team capable of winning the World Cup was more of an issue.

The victory over Brazil proved to the world - and perhaps to the Belgium team themselves - that they have what it takes to win the tournament for the first time.

Martinez's tactical switch paid off and few defences in the world could cope against De Bruyne, Lukaku and Eden Hazard when they are on top form.

France only managed two shots on target against Uruguay and Didier Deschamps admitted his team "can play better", especially in attack, but they may not get the chance if they are put on the back foot by Belgium.

With De Bruyne in a more attacking role, this is a game which promises goals so over 2.5 at 1/1 looks a worthy inclusion in our France vs Belgium predictions.

For bigger odds we're also taking Belgium to win and both teams to score at 11/2. It is a bet which has paid out in three of Belgium's five matches so far and conceding two goals against both Tunisia and Japan, before surviving some anxious moments late on against Brazil, shows the Red Devils are vulnerable at the back.

Team news

It was reported by L'Equipe that Mbappe did not participate in training on Monday, but Deschamps expects to have a full squad to choose from.

"Nobody is out even though we rested four of our players today - that was a precautionary measure," he said. "Everyone should be operational for tomorrow."

Traders' Tips - View from the trading floor

Eden Hazard has been one of Belgium's top performers with two goals, two assists and a wonderful display of dribbling against Brazil. We think he will be the man to lead Belgium's golden generation to their first ever World Cup final.

80+ Minute Goal Insurance: Applies to all matches in the World Cup tournament. Stake refunded as a Free Bet up to €/$/£20 if a goal after 80:00 turns a winning Match Result bet into a loser. Goals scored in Extra Time or Penalty Shootouts do not count. T&Cs apply.

More World Cup previews here

Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in World Cup