Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

France frustrates Belgium's offense to perfection in victory

France frustrates Belgium's offense to perfection in victory

"It's been two years to try and understand these footballers, the human beings behind the footballers, and to try and get a group that shared the same ambition, not just to use the national team to improve their brand", Belgian manager Roberto Martinez said in a news conference, via Reuters.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to its first major final.

Bringing back a system he used successfully during his first season at Everton, Martinez deployed a false nine and Lukaku on the right.

De Bruyne says that wherever he plays, his mind-set remains essentially the same.

Eden Hazard pushing for an equaliser.

"But they do defend strongly and are very efficient".

France have a plenty of attacking talent too, with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe (pictured top, left and right) particularly impressing in roles behind Giroud, who has offered his side a muscular presence they lacked when Deschamps opted for Ousmane Dembele in their unconvincing opening win over Australia. Yes, the likenesses between Kylian Mbappe and Henry are uncanny, except that Mbappe is still a teenager while stamping his mark on this tournament, while, 20 years ago, in France, Henry was a year older. The story is different now, you can't make comparisons.

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It is the first time since 1998 that the nation of just over four million people have reached this stage of the competition, after they eliminated Russian Federation in a penalty shootout at the weekend. "So the players that are playing now they all had one match less than Croatia to play", he said.

The Red Devils are unbeaten against Les Bleus in their last three meetings, including that 4-3 victory in Paris three years ago and have been in scintillating form in Russian Federation. There will be gaps between Luka Modric and the back four for Lingard, Alli, and Sterling to work their magic, pushing Croatia back and earning set-pieces.

The remaining semi-final takes place at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday, with the Three Lions looking to make it to the final for the first time since 1966.

Following the victory, France will play the victor of tomorrow's game between England and Croatia. At least until one of them, by a thin, necessarily brilliant margin, found a way through.

"He played man-to-man against Kolarov and devoured him, defensively and offensively, " Wilmots told the Associated Press in an interview before the World Cup. France is slightly favored over Belgium in their first competitive meeting since 1986. They weren't overwhelmed by Les Bleus, nor could they find a crack to exploit.

France have no such selection issues and are nearly certain to stick with Stuttgart's Benjamin Pavard at right back after a string of impressive displays from the 22-year-old have made him one of the tournament's stand-out defenders.

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