Watch: France v Belgium - Head-to-head stats

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France and Belgium will compete for a place in the final of the World Cup on Tuesday at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

While Didier Deschamps‘ men defeated Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals, Roberto Martinez’s side stunned Brazil to record a 2-1 win and reach the last four.

As we approach a mouthwatering encounter, here’s a look at the head-to-head stats for both teams.

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The Raheem Sterling referendum and other talking points as England play Croatia in semi-final

Chris Bailey 10/07/2018
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Two nations are giddy about the prospect of reaching an unlikely World Cup final, but the calmest Englishmen and Croatians you’ll find are the groups of 23 ready to battle on the pitch at Luzhniki Stadium.

Neither team will go down as the most talented to have ever played for their countries. However, they are tantalisingly close to shaking off spectres of the past – for England, 1966 is still a blessing and a curse while the current Croats are constantly badgered about their third-placed heroes in 1998.

We’ve picked out the key storylines among many ahead of a momentous evening.

RESPECT FOR AN ARTIST

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, now in their 30s, will soon pass the generational baton down to Kylian Mbappe and friends. But it is refreshing that, at 32, long queues are now forming outside the Luka Modric appreciation society – with the two usual suspects long gone from Russia.

Slight and camera-shy, he’s unlikely to ever adorn the front page of GQ. The Real Madrid midfielder, often spoke of as warm and kind by those who meet him, places nothing above his craft or family life.

He may very well have to smile for a Ballon d’Or photo shoot come December, however, as should he lead tiny Croatia to the World Cup there is only one poster boy that comes to mind.

The naked statistics – two goals and an assist from open play – do him little justice. Though not the quickest, the Vatreni captain is a wonderful dribbler and has no peers when threading a ball in full flight.

He was subdued for the first half-hour in the quarter-final victory against Russia. But expect him to play higher up the pitch from the start against England, where he can pull at the seams of an as-yet relatively untested English back-line.

Team-mate Dejan Lovren claimed earlier this week that Modric does ‘not get the attention he deserves’ because he hails from a country populated by just 4 million people. The world’s eyes will be on him on Wednesday.

STERLING REFERENDUM

It is threatening to bring the whole country to its knees. Endless debate in households, venomous arguments on social media, the fate of an entire nation rests on one decision: whether Raheem Sterling should be dropped.

The Brexit chaos is taking a backseat until at least Saturday, perhaps even Sunday, yet the feel-good factor swishing around England vanishes in a puff of smoke whenever Sterling lovers and haters cross swords.

To the naysayers he is all pace but no poise, squandering chance after chance while Marcus Rashford watches patiently from the bench. The other side just as strenuously argues that his darting runs put the fear of life into the opposition and to sideline him would be playing into Croatia’s hands.

As always, the middle ground is where the sense lies. With respect to Rashford, Sterling is far more polished in his attacking play thanks to two years’ worth of work under Pep Guardiola.

To throw more fuel to the bonfire by using the controversial statistic expected goals (xG), the Manchester City man also outdid his estimated 15.5 non-penalty goals last season by scoring 17.

However, you can boil football down into numbers only so much. Sterling must withstand the heat of the battle if he wants to score in the most important game of his life.

CROATIA TO GO EXTRA MILE

Three Lions supporters will have cheered with every wince and groan during extra-time in the game between Croatia and Russia, safe in the knowledge that their boys were putting their feet up following a sleepy win over Sweden.

Right-back Sime Vrsaljko succumbed to a knee injury and has been ruled out of the clash but goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and striker Mario Mandzukic were among the other walking wounded at the end.

A four-day turnaround will do nothing to help weary legs, especially as this Croatia team is not brimming with youth, but be careful when considering this as a huge disadvantage.

In 1990, England suffered through two extra-time nail-biters before playing West Germany in the semis and produced their finest performance of the tournament only for penalties to deny them.

Surely there’s nothing like the prospect of a World Cup final to renew body and soul. If England need a goal late on, though, the pace of Marcus Rashford and a fit-again Jamie Vardy off the bench will cause ructions among the Croatian backline.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JULY 07: Danijel Subasic of Croatia goes down injured during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Russia and Croatia at Fisht Stadium on July 7, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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Watch: Patrick Vieira predicts winner of France v Belgium World Cup semi-final

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France and Belgium are set to clash in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Tuesday at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

And while the tournament has offered surprises every now and then since its start, and football pundits have failed more than often to get their predictions right, current Nice manager Patrick Vieira thinks he knows which of the two teams will emerge victorious.

Find out who he thinks will come out on top, below!

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