Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

France take on Belgium for a place in the final

France take on Belgium for a place in the final

Hazard's breakneck speed on the counter-attack was a useful asset as Belgium looked to close out the tie against Brazil, the 27-year-olds pace could be needed if Belgium takes the lead in the semi-final.

As World Cup fever builds at home, England are avoiding the hype as the coach Gareth Southgate prepares his team in their tranquil base near Saint Petersburg for their first semi-final since 1990. Barring a Kylian Mbappe-inspired 4-3 victory over Argentina, France have lacked cohesion in the final third.

De Bruyne and Belgium will be hoping he has a rare off-night though, as they battle for the right to play England or Croatia in the World Cup final.

The golden generation of Belgium is trying to win their maiden global title, to set a benchmark for its teams of the future to be compared to.

The 23-man Belgium squad has 12 players who play in the Premier League, a competition which Kante has dominated to such an extent that he has now won two league titles in his three-year stay in the division. "It was something we'd worked on in training", Varane would later say about the goal. We need to rise to challenge and keep doing what we've been doing. He has lived through great moments in the blue jersey.

In front of Courtois at the back, Belgium have the experience of lynchpin Vincent Kompany who, even when questions linger over his fitness, brings a calm and composure to those around him.

But here's one thing Deschamps can be sure of: if Lukaku has a one-on-one duel with the French goalkeeper, and pauses just before the final shot, or if Eden Hazard cuts in from the left and curls his shot across Hugo Lloris, each of them will have taken expert advice on how to finesse those manoeuvres from one Thierry Henry, French legend. Marouane Fellaini, who has oft-partnered Pogba in the United midfield, will now be looking to stop the powerful Frenchman. How deep, or advanced, will Kevin de Bruyne play? The rest of the side needs no changing anyway, with the forward line, comprising of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud, starting to get in its stride.

There's always been a degree of friendly tension between the two, with France regarding Belgium, and its French-speaking Wallonia region, as something of a poor cousin, while the Belgians often dismiss France as patronizing and faux-superior.

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Like the playing days of his global manager Didier Deschamps, Kante's silent crusade as an unassuming No 6 in the midst of his celebrity teammates will determine whether France can lift the trophy that has remained elusive to them since it was last held aloft by Deschamps himself in 1998. "However, during the match, there will be no friendship".

"After than win Martinez went from a bad manager to a tactical wonder coach - typical Belgium media".

"He's a different player now, and he will be a star for the next 15 years".

France coach Didier Deschamps agrees Henry will be in a tough spot at the St Petersburg Stadium.

Born in the French-speaking part of Belgium, he came through as a player across the border at Lille, and was the outstanding player in the team that won the French league and cup double in 2011 before eventually moving on to Chelsea. "It's an advantage on both sides, but we will seize every opportunity to reach the final".

He said: "Thierry is someone who lives for football". He is more proactive than reactive.

However, their backline will face its biggest test yet against a Belgian team that are top scorers at Russian Federation 2018 with 14 goals in their five games, with the strikes coming from nine different players - a record in diversity shared with the French team of 1982 and Italian side of 2006.

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