France take on Belgium for a place in the final

Lawrence Kim
July 11, 2018

France's Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring their third goal against Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Russia June 30, 2018.

So not only do we not know what he thinks about Tuesday's World Cup semi-final clash against his native France, we don't really know what he thinks about his role at all.

That's why I think talent-wise, Belgium have the edge over France.

With England or Croatia awaiting, the victor of this one will go in to Sunday's final as the favorites.

Hazard's willingness and ability to carry the ball under pressure, jinking past helpless defenders, was in evidence as Belgium claimed their greatest-ever World Cup scalp by beating Brazil in the quarter-finals.

With stars adorning both teams, and managers who have asserted themselves tactically, both Belgium and France will back themselves to reach the final.

Belgium has played neighbouring France 73 times, but the teams haven't met in three years - and hadn't met in a competitive game since the 1986 World Cup. He is on the bench and facing his home nation.

The former Everton manager will have a big absence since Thomas Meunier is out due to suspension.

On Monday, meanwhile, Belgium's Kevin de Bruyne was asked cheekily if he thought Henry might sing the French national anthem on Wednesday night.

"Perhaps he will sing the Marseillaise (before the game), which I find normal", De Bruyne said.

Belgium's confidence will be high after they knocked out Brazil in the quarter-finals and they are the only team to have won all their matches in Russian Federation, top-scoring with 14 goals.

And on the topic of stopping Mbappe, who scored twice in France's 4-3 round-of-16 victory over Argentina, and Les Bleus blistering counter-attack, Martinez said: "That's a very tough thing to do".

It might even end with an England-France final.

With former France striker Thierry Henry as an assistant coach, Belgium leads the scoring in Russian Federation with 14 goals in its five World Cup matches. However, Croatia are still one of the least creative sides to have made the knockouts, largely because they are too reliant on the Real Madrid midfielder.

"If we approach this match with fear within us, we will bring ourselves down and we'd be able to do so much less than what we can actually do", said Martinez.

However, the Belgians will meet a French team in St. Petersburg that has emerged as a gilded generation of its own.

"It happens sometimes when you play in a foreign club and come back and play against a French team". Harry Maguire's brilliant aerial performances so far this tournament, culminating in him winning 22 headers against Sweden and Colombia, would suggest Jordan Pickford's goal won't be regularly troubled.

Paul Pogba who looked shackled previously, has started to dominate games, while N'Golo Kante has been at his destructive best, snuffing out potential attacks by the dozen.

If he can do that, then the golden generation could well glitter alongside the World Cup, as the winners of this semi-final would be odds-on favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday.

However, they say they will have no objection if the Centre Court crowd want to take sneak peeks of the action from Moscow on their phones.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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