History beckons as France take on Belgium

Tanya Simon
July 10, 2018

The first time Antoine Griezmann met Thierry Henry he was 7.

Had a video of the meeting not surfaced recently, the moment might have been forgotten to all but Griezmann.

"I think it's a hard one to call; both of them are starting to play really, really well now".

These links extend to their respective football teams, who meet on Tuesday evening to contest a place in the World Cup final.

In a game that has been dubbed as "The Final before the Final", France and Belgium will determine which team will become the first side to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.

From 32 nations at the World Cup, four remain.

In the European Championship final two years ago, France lost to Portugal 1-0.

Wednesday represents a date with destiny, and Martinez plans to attend with the same mantra that once helped him and his players to numerous against-the-odds wins for Wigan in the Premier League: "No fear".

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But while he wants to follow in Henry's footsteps and make history by winning the trophy, he admits France will have to play the game of their lives against a star-studded Belgium team.

France coach Didier Deschamps is hoping that N'Golo Kante can repeat his heroics from the 4-3 World Cup round-of-16 win over Argentina when Les Bleus take on Belgium in Tuesday's semifinal against Belgium in Saint Petersburg.

And that's not sitting well with everyone on the French side.

On the French side, the attack is led by 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe and a pair of 22-year-old fullbacks, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, who love to attack on offense. "It is true that it is unusual to have him against us for this match". "I am happy for him for everything that he went on to do. As long as we win, that's fine with me". Lukaku looked up to the Arsenal legend when he was growing up in Antwerp, and was delighted when Martinez took charge, announcing Henry as one of his assistants. This, teamed with clean sheets against Panama and England, has earned him his spot as number one ahead of Hugo Lloris, despite the Tottenham captain boasting three shut outs. But that would prove to be the country's last major title.

With regard to France, Martinez believes the two teams have something in common. Kante's speciality is that he manages to go nearly unnoticed in games despite being uber-busy; he uncomplicates matches, an underrated quality that serves to highlight his value to France.

Though a very different player from the elegant Frenchman, the powerfully built Lukaku showed a touch of Henry in his intelligent dummy that allowed the ball to run through to Nacer Chadli to score Belgium's victor in the thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16.

"The feeling after scoring that goal was unbelievable, but then so was the feeling after the match against Brazil".

He, more than many players, gives the impression he is constantly growing, constantly improving, and right now he is playing the best football of his career, and for Belgium he has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 appearances. Belgium likely will score, but the caution big games like these often breed should limit them to just one goal.

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