Belgium star Hazard: I used to support France growing up

10 July, 2018, 22:28 | Author: Cecil Buchanan
  • World Cup 2018 Semi-Final Belgium Face France Eye Maiden World Cup Final Spot

This fixture is one of the matches that could easily have been the "Final" of this 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.

Both teams know they would be strong favorites to finish the job in Russian Federation against either England or Croatia in the final, meaning it could be now or never for the pair to fulfil their undoubted promise.

Two of these have never won one; let alone even made a World Cup final - will either of Belgium or Croatia make history?

18 of the 20 World Cups of all-time have gone to nations that aren't these four - have we ever seen such an open contest?

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

"I do not want to denigrate the Belgium team of the time, there were very good players, but at that time, it was France".

"We know him, he has a lot of passion for football and he will be with the Belgians and will give everything to help his team".

Tuesday's game has an added twist of intrigue in that the French and Belgian players know each other so well. "We need to be the best version of ourselves". He has lived through great moments in the blue jersey.

At set pieces, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who plays for Spurs, will be wary of the aerial threat posed by club teammates and Belgium defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

Not to mention Romelu Lukaku and N'Golo Kante who have also starred in Russian Federation. Marouane Fellaini, who has oft-partnered Pogba in the United midfield, will now be looking to stop the powerful Frenchman.

Belgium's chances of stopping their opponents are dented by the absence of suspended right back Thomas Meunier but Deschamps believes his charges are equally capable of adapting to any situation. "Each player would be defending his colours". It is a tactic that has become a hallmark of both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur over the last two years. There isn't a philosophy to the French play, their style of play derived from the personnel they have.

Griezmann has seven goals in his last six tournament knockout matches and nine goals and three assists in the World Cup and European Championship.

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

Deschamps also took a jibe at Martinez.

The Golden Generation label seemed to hang like a millstone around the team's neck at previous tournaments, with quarter-final exits at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016. "On a personal level it is with great pleasure that I'm going to see him tomorrow".

Otherwise, there was respect and admiration in equal measure.

"Belgium are in a forward gear", said Deschamps. "They do it well, they do it fast".

One change they can consider making is the reinstatement of Mertens for Chadli. "They are a fantastic team".

Remember this? Ahead of the Belgium v France match in the World Cup tonight, we look back at when Hazard & Kante chatted Hazard and Kante during the 2016/17 season.

The one doubtful player is Samuel Umtiti. "We respect everybody, but if we play with fear we will not be able to beat France", Chadli said. With the sides hard to separate on paper, how they handle the pressure, and perhaps those little nuggets of inside knowledge, could make all the difference.

De Bruyne, speaking before Martinez, echoed similar thoughts.

"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", Martinez told a news conference. I'm not thinking much about what will happen.

At the helm for almost six years, a fundamental flaw of the French under his reign has been the inability to score goals in crucial knockout games.

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