It’s a mouthwatering clash between two sides that arguably possess the most talented squads in recent memory and the current ‘Outright’ market reflects this, as the two sides own 58.44% of the ‘Outright’ market possessing implied probabilities of 31.05% and 27.39% (five teams remaining).
It was a clinical performance by France, as they appeared fortunate in the manner of their victory against Uruguay. The intensity in which the Uruguayan team pressed the French in the opening minutes of the game caused a nervy opening fifteen minutes. The high press continued to trouble Lucas Hernandez, as he was shown a yellow card after being dispersed by Christian Stuani before cynically tearing his shirt in order to halt the Uruguayan counter-attack.
Antoine Griezmann’s wonderful stutter-step free-kick in the fortieth minute allowed Raphaël Varane to gain a yard on Christian Stuani and guide the ball past Fernando Muslera, with a beautifully precise header to put Didier Deschamps side one-nil up.
Raphaël Varane’s goal possessed an xG count of just 0.07, which consequently made up 23.33% of France’s first-half xG total (0.30). Although the Uruguayan formation was very compact, it was disappointing not to see the French isolate Diego Laxalt and Martin Cáceres more frequently.
Although France headed into halftime with a lead, the most significant opportunity of the game come only moments before the halftime whistle, as Diego Godín followed up on a brilliant save from Hugo Lloris only to blare his opportunity over the bar from three yards out. It was a highly significant moment in the game, as Godín’s opportunity possessed 69.04% of Uruguay’s total xG count (0.84) in the first half.
The French continued to benefit from good fortune, as Fernando Muslera turned Antoine Griezmann’s effort into his own net. It appeared to be a routine save from distance, yet the thirty-two-year-old seemed to misjudge the flight of the ball and parried the ball over his head in what was comical goalkeeping.
Griezmann’s effort possessed an xG count of just 0.02, constructing an xG total of 0.09 for both of the French goals. A fortune ninety minutes for Didier Deschamps side as they manufactured an xG total of just 0.47, highlighting Diego Godín’s huge opportunity moments before halftime which possessed more significance than all of France’s offensive activities during the entirety of the game.
Belgium’s performance against Brazil possessed many similarities to the Uruguay performance against France. The significant difference between Uruguay and Belgium however, is the pace within their counter-attacks. Belgium are able to break at pace and cover the entire length of the field in ten seconds, which was evident against Japan. Yet, Uruguay don’t possess that luxury.
Although Belgium are lavished with offensive talents, their defensive weaknesses were evident against Brazil.
For the majority of the game Adenor Leonardo Bacchi’s side were playing with two left-sided wide players, as Marcelo and Phillippe Coutinho continuously pestered Thomas Meunier. The Belgian right-back was virtually pinned inside his own half for long periods of the game, with his average position during the entirety of the game showing only Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld possessing deeper average positions.
Although Belgium went into the break two-nil to the good, it was Brazil who had produced the most significant opportunities during the game possessing an xG count of 1.16.
On numerous occasions, we have witnessed Kevin De Bruyne produce wonderful goals and his strike in the thirty-first minute was no different, it was a sumptuous finish from one of the most gifted players on the planet. Yet, his strike registered an xG count of just 0.05.
As Douglas Costa entered the fray, Brazil’s offensive transitions possessed more balance. Costa quickly made his presence felt as he isolated Jan Vertonghen and began causing significant problems with his pace.
Although Brazil were unable to find an equaliser they registered an xG final count of 3.00, the most Belgium have allowed at the World Cup so far. If the blueprint wasn’t clear before the quarterfinal, Brazil have certainly set a precedent for France and any further team’s facing this Belgian side.
It will be quiet remarkable if Kylian Mbappé doesn’t have a major role in France’s offensive success in this game, as his pace and conviction in-front of goal will certainly cause Meunier and Vertonghen major issues throughout.
I feel the market’s current perception of France is vastly underrating the individual matchups favouring this French side and with N’Golo Kante and Steven N’Zonzi capable of interrupting the devastating nature of the Belgian counter-attack, the current price on France winning this game within ninety minutes seems an attractive entry point.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: France -0.50 at 2.560
Preview by: @gscurftrader.