Sport

Look for Goals Aplenty in the Belgium v

Look for Goals Aplenty in the Belgium v

I was there at the Under-20 World Cup in Holland in 2005 and I can tell you a 17-year-old Messi was a more all-rounded player than Mbappe is now - already then he had a great intelligence and understanding of the game and could make the difference on his own or in a team setting.

Belgium are bidding to reach the final of the showpiece competition for the first time in their history, but they face a tricky last-four tie against France. In two and four years, we have a lot of players who will still be here with us.

"We had to believe and we know how talented we are as a squad", he said.

"We've strived to be as good as we could be at global level and it's taken us two years to get there".

World Cup favourites France are targeting the final in Russian Federation two decades after their 1998 triumph with one of their greatest players, Thierry Henry, plotting their downfall from the dugout of opponents Belgium.

"He motivates the troops with strong words", Pavard said. This allowed De Bruyne to dominate the number ten zone (by dropping into it, rather than hover there, which is easier to mark) and Lukaku to arc into the centre-forward spaces left when De Bruyne vacated (and pulled centre-backs with him). Fans welcomed his arrival in August 2016 with lukewarm enthusiasm because he'd only recently been fired by Everton in the Premier League. He has a specific job on the Belgium coaching staff, to coach the attacking players and counsel on strategies; it is part-time role, outside his broadcasting work in English television, and his rank in the Belgian staff hierarchy is well beneath that of manager Roberto Martinez.

Regarding this being the most talented French team that Lloris has played with, he responded that he will "only be able to say at the end of our World Cup". "On the personal front it is with great pleasure that I'm going to see him tomorrow".




Martinez's tactics have stood out, too.

The knockout fixtures saw glimpses of how good France can be as they demolished Argentina 4-3 with Mbappe scoring twice.

Among the notable matchups, Chelsea have Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and captain Eden Hazard up against N'Golo Kanté and Olivier Giroud, who are certain to start for France.

France have steadily improved as the tournament has progressed and are now starting to justify the hype surrounding their presence at this year's tournament.

When it comes to World Cup titles, France has bragging rights - for now. But Lloris appeared to be at his commanding best in the quarterfinal win over Uruguay, rushing off his line to push away a low cross and later making a superb low save. "The best is Hugo".

Right wing-back Thomas Meunier is suspended for Belgium, so a defensive reshuffle will be required. Because of his quick feet, change of direction and exquisite close control, he is hard to tackle and this often draws a foul. Mbappe has starred at the World Cup with his breakneck speed and Deschamps has merely used the youngster's ability to the team's advantage.

Antoine Griezmann features in our combined XI, but who else is in the team? "I think England could be in the final", said Whelan. "It's my unselfish side". Specifically, De Bruyne. But ultimately, France have the edge: the skill, running, intelligence, strength and invention from their trio is surely superior to their opponents. They are tied on fourth overall with 31.


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