Hands up who thought they’d ever see Nacer Chadli play at right-back in a World Cup semi-final.
Didn’t think so.
The 28-year-old played as a wide forward for West Brom during the Baggies’ dismal Premier League campaign.
But Roberto Martinez felt Chadli was the right man to deputise for the suspended Thomas Meunier against France in Saint-Petersburg.
Belgium have preferred a back three of Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen in the tournament up until the semi-finals.
Meunier has acted as a right wing-back while Chadli has shared left wing-back duties with Yannick Carrasco.
The PSG defender’s suspension forced Martinez to change to a back four with Chadli filling in at right-back.
However, the system is rather unique.
When France have the ball, Belgium shape up with four at the back as Vertonghen shifts over to left-back.
But when Belgium are in possession, Chadli is noticeably advanced while Alderweireld, Kompany and Vertonghen shift into a back three.
At times, Martinez’s side are asymmetrical.
When France are in possession…
When Belgium are in possession…
This could be a response to France’s set-up.
Kylian Mbappe represents a greater attacking threat on the right flank more than the defensive-minded Blaise Matuidi, on the left.
It makes sense that Vertonghen remains deep to cover Mbappe’s pace while Chadli has license to get forward, knowing that Matuidi is less likely to counter with great incision.
Changing formation based on possession requires supreme concentration and tactical awareness.
That’s a lot to be thinking about in a World Cup semi-final.
Needless to say, those on Twitter were intrigued…
One possible option for Didier Deschamps is to switch Matuidi and Mbappe.
The 19-year-old speedster could then test out Chadli’s defensive attributes and exploit any space in behind.
Good to see a fascinating contest from a tactical perspective.
What a World Cup we’ve had…