Martinez: France's Henry is missing ingredient for Belgium

Belgium

Belgium

The connections between the two national team setups have become increasingly apparent in the two barren days between the last quarterfinal and the start of the last four.

France and Belgium will meet in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinals later today in St. Petersburg, Russia, pitting the neighboring countries (the game is being billed as "La Fête des Voisins", or The Neighbors' Party) against each other for a chance to play for the title Sunday against the victor of Wednesday's England-Croatia matchup.

Belgium is the team France has met the most over its history and we have to go back to 1904 for the first match.

Not since 1986 have Belgium made it this far at the World Cup, losing to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina in Mexico and then going down 4-2 to France in the third-place play-off, the last competitive meeting of the nations.

France defeated Uruguay 2-0 to advance to the semi-finals for the first time in 12 years, when they were runners-up in Germany.

"It might be a bit hard for him but he´s working for Belgium now, he wants us to win".

Deschamps and Belgium coach Roberto Martinez will have a tactical duel on the sidelines of the pitch.

"It is true it is a little bit peculiar to see him with the Belgian team". Lukaku scored United's only goal of the tie, but was often isolated from his teammates, while Pogba was not in the starting lineup for either game.

Belgium have undeniably been the standout side in the tournament, scoring a total of 14 goals in five matches.

"We've strived to be as good as we could be at global level and it's taken us two years to get there". If the former Arsenal centre forward is Martinez's secret weapon then the description is apt in every sense. The likes of Eden Hazard, Toby Alderweireld and Kevin De Bruyne are all regarded as near the best in the world in their respective positions.

De Bruyne, speaking before Martinez, echoed similar thoughts.

"He's a different player now, and he will be a star for the next 15 years". I thought it was fantastic how he did it, how he worked it out and how the players did it. "That's the quality that he has". They will need to be at their very best defensively against the Belgians, and look to Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann to get the better of the opposition defence.

Belgium wing-back Thomas Meunier is suspended so will miss the match in St Petersburg.

Didier Deschamps' side began the tournament as one of the favourites and unlike some other much-fancied teams - Germany, Spain and Brazil - they have lived up to it.

England on their part finally broke their decade-long jinx of spot-kicks in the last 16, and the likelihood of another penalty shootout can not be ruled out in the must-win-match between the adversaries. "They have great players, individual talents who can decide the game in one moment".

With so many world-class players on display this World Cup semi-final should be an absolute classic - or it will end in a drab goalless draw with the winners reaching Sunday's final via a penalty shoot-out.

In 29 matches for France, both in the underage sides and the seniors, Pavard has not lost a game.

Deschamps said: "We were team-mates but he jumped on the right train and I'm delighted for him". His standout performance against Uruguay, which amounted to a monumental defensive effort from the French which earned him his spot here, earning 66.5 points in their quarter-final win and a consistent performer before that.

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