Russian Federation 2018: Semi-final combatants set for showdown

Tanya Simon
July 10, 2018

Since coming aboard, Henry has had a big influence on the Belgian team and seen them go unbeaten and score 78 goals in their last 23 games.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Henry was part of the French squad that won the World Cup on home soil 20 years ago and played 123 times for his country, scoring 51 times.

"We lost touch with him, he has little contact with the French federation", Noel Le Graet, president of the French FA, said on Sunday. "On the personal front it is with great pleasure that I'm going to see him tomorrow".

Chadli netted a dramatic stoppage-time victor in the round of 16 against Japan as Belgium came from two goals down to win 3-2. France have always been a superpower of world football, albeit with a share of ups and downs, while Belgium have been a coming force for a while.

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.

Hazard has arguably been the outstanding player of the tournament and pulled Brazil and their right back Fagner around the field in their quarter-final. "I would have preferred to have Henry on our side, to give me and the other French forwards advice, but I am not too jealous". "They're good in the air and on the ground". "The best is Hugo". All yellow cards are wiped out after the quarter-final to ensure no player is suspended in the final should he be booked in the semis.

In possession, Belgium stuck to their classic 3-4-2-1 system, however, the formation was subjected to minor tweaks.

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In typical Martinez style, Belgium's ultra-fluid attacking lines make them wide-open defensively, a situation that isn't helped by the presence of Alex Witsel at the base of midfield and Vincent Kompany in defence. Kante's role could prove crucial if he can cut off the pipeline of supply to Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens. Because of his quick feet, change of direction and exquisite close control, he is hard to tackle and this often draws a foul.

It certainly is a tough call between two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, if not the world.

This combination of pictures shows Belgium´s forward Eden Hazard (L) on July 2, 2018 and France´s forward Antoine Griezmann on June 21, 2018.

"Maybe he's going to sing La Marseillaise, which I would find normal", De Bruyne said when pondering how Henry might react during the pre-match formalities. "It's my unselfish side".

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some talking points ahead of the game in St Petersburg.

Harry Kane would have to be more clinical in front of goal in order to add to his tally of six goals and possibly emerge as the victor of the famed Golden Boot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

However, France have prevailed on each of the three occasions the pair have met at major tournament finals, with the last time being at the group stage of the European Championships in 1984 when Les Bleus ran out 5-0 winners on their way to claiming the title. We want to go beyond our limits and grab what is the most handsome thing in football. Victory against France - a team against whom they have historically, and somewhat surprisingly, enjoyed an upper hand; of their 73 games Belgium have won 30 to France's 24 - will only add to their growing legend.

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