Half-time report: Near misses keep the deadlock intact

Olivier Giroud missed two good opportunities to put France ahead against Belgium as the scores remained goalless in Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Close misses at either ends kept the scores 0-0 at half-time between Beligum and France in St. Petersburg Stadium.   -  Getty Images

There was plenty of action but goals were hard to come by in the first half of the semifinal between France and Belgium. 

Roberto Martinez, after a tactical masterpiece against Brazil, again changed the formation with Moussa Dembele coming in a beefed up midfield with Nacer Chadli playing as the right back in a 4-3-3 system, without compromising on the fluidity of his front three, who created much trouble for Brazil in the quarterfinal.

The Red Devils continued playing their passing game while France sat deep, wary of the Belgian pace that has destroyed many an opponent so far. Happy to cede possession, the French relied on a smash-and-grab job and Kylian Mbappe out ran the much senior Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen in the 13th minute but Thibaut Courtois was alert enough to rush out and forestall the hazard.

Moments later, it was chance on the other end with Kevin de Bruyne scurrying a pass to his captain inside the box but Eden Hazard’s effort was narrowly off target. Toby Alderweireld drew a diving save from Hugo Lloris in the 22nd minute after his defence failed to clear a corner. 

Giroud, still searching for his first goal in the 2018 World Cup, smartly tried to head in a Benjamin Pavard cross into the box, the execution, however, left a lot to be desired. Mbappe soon presented his senior teammate a chance to open his account after a lofted pass from Antoine Griezmann found the youngster in space on the right side of the Belgian box. His layover for Giroud was botched with the Chelsea man – in little hurry – failing to make the correct contact.

France, slowly wresting control of the match, was denied by a outstretched Courtois in the 39th minute after Benjamin Pavard surged into the box to get to the end of a Mbappe pass. Right at the end, Romelu Lukaku, bottled down by Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, had a moment of luck as the latter bungled a clearance from a de Bruyne cross but the Belgian attacker was too surprised to react.  

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