World Cup stars ready for semi showdown
IT'S a World Cup semi worthy of top billing: 1998 champions France against the rising powers of a talent-laden Belgium.
The winner will face either England or Croatia - and will likely start favourites - making this showdown as big as the World Cup has seen this year.
France's youthful offensive force is led by 19-year-old superstar Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, and has already wowed the world with their expansive, aggressive play.
But Belgium has shown they finally have the resilience to match their ability, fighting back from 2-0 down against Japan with little over 20 minutes to play to reach the quarter-finals.
Kick-off is at 4am (AEST) on Wednesday in Saint Petersberg.
FRANCE v BELGIUM
Wednesday, 4am AEST
After 90 mins: Les Bleus $2.45, Draw $3.10, Red Devils $3.10
Result: Les Bleus $1.75, Red Devils $2.10
Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann (France) 3
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) 4
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) v N'Golo Kante (France)
The Belgian whiz played a more advanced role to good effect, dominating Brazil and scoring the crucial second goal. Kante's World Cup performances - like his club ones - have been massively underrated. While Kante will also be looking after Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard, thwarting De Bruyne is the key to victory.
DAVID DAVUTOVIC'S VERDICT
Both teams are armed with an up and coming generation. They are so evenly matched and well balanced from defence to attack, I suspect it will take at least 120 minutes to decide this one.
France to win, 2-1 (After extra-time)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
2 Pavard 4 Varane 5 Umtiti 21 Hernandez
6 Pogba 13 Kante
10 Mbappe 7 Griezmann 14 Matuidi
5 Vertonghen 4 Kompany 2 Alderweireld
11 Carrasco 8 Witsel 7 De Bruyne 15 Meunier
10 Hazard 14 Mertens
Coach: Roberto Martinez
2018 WORLD CUP WINNER (LADBROKES)