France are two games away from lifting their second World Cup. Les Bleus won the tournament on home soil in 1998 and if they overcome Belgium on Tuesday they will be just 90 minutes from once again clinching the famous trophy.
Oddsmakers have France set as -138 favorites to advance to the World Cup final and pegged as +200 frontrunners to win the tournament.
And ahead of that last four clash, Football Whispers identity the three reasons why France might be able to win the World Cup, and three reasons why they can’t.
WHY FRANCE CAN WIN THE WORLD CUP
Strength in depth
There is little doubt France have the strongest squad of the four semifinalists.
Such is their talent there was no place for Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, who was one of the Premier League’s top ten attacking players last season – his 0.75 expected goals and expected goals assisted per 90 was the ninth-highest figure in the league.
But in Kylian Mbappe, +2500 with bet365 for the Golden Boot, they have one of the most promising young players world football. Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, remains one of of the world’s best forwards; a player who is capable of winning a game for his side on his own.
Defensively goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is the favorite for the Golden Glove at +225. The Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper has kept three clean sheets so far in the tournament and was excellent in the last round against Uruguay, making several key stops.
Make sure to check out our World Cup Odds page for the latest odds on the semifinal games.
A strong defence
Despite their young and vibrant attacking talents, it has been France’s defence that has been their strongest asset at the World Cup so far.
Using expected goals, a statistic which measures chance quality, Les Bleus have conceded the fewest quality chances of the four semi-finalists. With 3.11 expected goals conceded, the nearest semifinalist is England (3.47). Semifinal opponent Belgium have the leakiest defence (6.24).
It’s why France are priced at +175 to keep yet another clean sheet when they come up against Belgium
The opportunity to counter
France’s attacking talents are, for the most part, quick and incisive. They are most threatening when they are able to counter-attack sides who have lost possession of the ball and are out of position.
Belgium are also most effective when they’re able to attack in this way, and they have made their previous games very open and end-to-end in order to exploit this.
However, this strategy may not be effective against France’s strong defence, while opening themselves up to being attacked by the talented French youngsters would also be a naive tactical decision from Roberto Martinez.
WHY FRANCE CAN’T WIN THE WORLD CUP
No luck of the draw
Although the way Belgium like to play might suit France, it will nonetheless be a difficult match. The Belgians have scored the most goals of the World Cup, 14, which works out at 2.8 per game.
They also have one of the tournament’s on-form forwards, Romelu Lukaku. The hulking Manchester United striker has netted four goals so far in Russia and is priced at +1000 for the Golden Boot.
If he is on form then Belgium could cause France’s defence problems. It’s why both teams to score is priced at -125.
France have an abundance of attacking talent. Yet Didier Deschamps has only loosened the leash in one game, the pulsating 4-3 victory over Argentina in the Round of 16.
Deschamps has chosen to set his side up conservatively and this is part of the reason why their defence has looked so strong.
But that has clearly taken away from the attack, who are rated as the worst-performing of the tournament judged on their expected goals total.
France have created chances worth just 4.09 expected goals, 0.81 per match, less than half of Belgium’s 8.78.
Argentina highlighted defensive vulnerabilities
While France’s defence has been impressive, it has only faced an array of world class attacking talent once in Russia.
That came against Argentina and, as mentioned above, it was a thrilling game in which Leo Messi and co. netted three times despite being far from their best.
That was by far France’s worst defensive performance of the tournament, conceding 1.6 of their total 3.11 expected goals. Deschamps will be hoping they are more secure in the semi-final but if history repeats itself then it would be worth backing the game having more than 2.5 goals is at +110.