National tensions simmer ahead of Belgium-France World Cup semi-final

Doug Mendoza
July 10, 2018

Didier Deschamps side ground out narrow victories against Australia and Peru before playing out a tiresome 0-0 draw with Denmark - the only goalless draw of the tournament thus far. Central to their success in this tournament has been their tactical flexibility, and Martinez may change the formation again to a 4-4-2 to cover for the suspension of wing-back Thomas Meunier.

Thibaut Courtois was superb in goal, giving a performance in stature to match his giant 6ft 5in frame when Brazil finally came knocking after pulling a late goal back through Renato Augusto.

It remains to be seen whether Martinez repeats that ploy against the French.

"There is no revenge in football, I don't like that word".

Both teams will have to deal with the pressure of succeeding, and succeeding now: Given their opponents in the final, neither will have a better chance to win the World Cup, and Belgium in particular have a celebrated generation of players who need to deliver now, because who knows when this small country will produce a better group.

France will start the semi-final in Saint Petersburg as favourites, with an impressive mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final. But he knows that he has been working for two years to prepare for these seven games and that his players have the same commitment toward the goal.

We take a look at the prospects of both sides as they chase the dream that consumes every single footballer in the world - playing in a World Cup final.

'This time it is much higher. Witsel and Marouane Fellaini aren't adept at stopping quick interchanges, and so the thought of Olivier Giroud's excellent lay-offs, Griezmann's brilliant space-creating passes, and Mbappe's speed should terrify Belgian fans.

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"For me Kylian Mbappe is the best player in the French selection", Vermaelen told reporters. Of course, it is a hard situation, it really is not easy for him. Dubbed by many as the two best teams left in the competition, we could be in line for a thrilling encounter between two attacking-minded teams.

"I can say that it is the saddest moment of my career, the pain is very great because we knew we could get there, we knew we had the conditions to go further, to make history but it was not this time", Neymar said.

The two sides have met three times at major tournaments, with France winning all three encounters.

Three of the last four meetings between the sides have produced under 2.5 goals in total.

Henry, a World Cup and European Championship victor with France as well as their record goalscorer, is now in the Belgium camp as assistant manager. "Les Bleus" lost their first three (1958, 1982, 1986), but have won their last two (1998 & 2006).

"What we didn't have was global experience, the know-how of winning a World Cup, the know-how of being a footballer expected to perform in front of the world, and knowing how you feel in those moments".

Hugo Lloris expects Thierry Henry to have divided loyalties when France face Belgium for a place in the World Cup final on Tuesday night.

Other reports by GizPress

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