Belgium or France?

The winner of this semi final will be favourite for the World Cup

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Will Belgium or France make it to the World Cup final?

By Joe Harker

It's been dubbed the semi final to decide the favourite for the World Cup, whoever wins this one will go through to the final as the team to beat. France and Belgium go head to head today to decide who competes to win the World Cup and who will play for third place.

The French go into the game with a full squad as Blaise Matuidi returns from his ban. Striker Olivier Giroud is expected to start for the Euro 2016 runners up despite not having a shot on target all tournament. Belgium have lost right back Thomas Meunier to injury so will likely need to reshuffle their defence. It will be up to manager Roberto Martinez to decide whether to stick with the formation change that saw them defeat Brazil.

France finally seem to have kicked into gear after knockout round wins against Argentina and Uruguay. They are now arguably the favourites for the competition and look ready to live up to that billing after a somewhat ordinary group stage.

Young forward Kylian Mbappe will be the one to watch for France's attack, having dazzled against Argentina. He has scored seven times in his last six knockout games so France will be relying on him to provide some magic.

ESPN reports that the pressure is on Belgium's golden generation to succeed at this World Cup. They are two wins away from lifting the top prize in football and their attacking performance against Brazil was scintillating. If they can replicate that form and keep hitting France on the counter attack they will fancy their chances of winning.

Their key man in attack could be forward Eden Hazard, who tore Brazil's defence to shreds and will want the chance to torment France. He grew up supporting France due to their World Cup win in 1998 but will relish the chance to knock them out now and carve out his own place in World Cup history.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will also be needed to ensure Belgium stay on target for the World Cup. While they were praised for their performance against Brazil, the Belgians needed to be saved on several occasions by their keeper and will rely on him once more to stop the formidable French attack from scoring.

France and Belgium play in St Petersburg tonight at 7pm UK time. The winner will progress to the World Cup final and the loser will be entered into the third place playoff.

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Fearless France ready to show Belgium's Henry he picked wrong side

ISTRA, Russia (Reuters) - France will go into their World Cup semi-final against neighbours Belgium with a "hunger to win" and a desire to show their 1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry that he picked the wrong side, forward Olivier Giroud said on Sunday.

Retired French striker Henry is now a member of the Belgian coaching staff. The two sides will meet on Tuesday to decide who plays in July 15's World Cup final.

"It is bizarre to have Thierry against us in this match," Giroud told reporters.

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