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France keeper Lloris braces for 'complete' Belgium team

10 July 2018

While Les Bleus of France are hoping to repeat their success in 1998, their next door neighbour, Le Diable Rouge (The Red Devils) of Belgium will play in their first semi-final in 32 years.

Eden Hazard has been one of the best players at the tournament and stands out in a side crammed with world-class talent.

With Hugo Lloris impressing in goal and a solid midfield of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, the one potential weakness for France could be their inexperienced defence. They're expected to field their strongest teams for this one. But on the basis of this tournament, we have to disagree with Giroud.

Henry made his French debut less than a year before the 1998 World Cup, joining Didier Deschamps - now the French coach - Zinedine Zidane, Laurent Blanc and Patrick Vieira on perhaps the best French team ever. Then there's the heading ability of its defenders Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany, and of midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

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He will be ably supported by Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann in a France attack that put four past Argentina in the round of 16 and comfortably saw off a strong Uruguay side 2-0 last time out.

When Belgium went out to Argentina in 2014, frustration could not hide the fact that there would be more opportunities. The decision to switch formations might have been inspired, as much as anything else, by the desire to get Kevin de Bruyne further forward, which paid off handsomely with what turned out to be the decisive goal. We'll see at least a couple goals in this one, and maybe more.

This is an extremely tough call. Belgium are unbeaten in the whole thing, not lost a game, France have some very good players as well.

They will also have the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann. The powerful striker has proved a handful, not just for his goals but also for his role as a target man and in opening up space for Eden Hazard and De Bruyne.

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His pace and dribbling skill, and sangfroid as a finisher made him close to the flawless modern forward, devastating on the counter-attack, able to drift into wide positions to search for opportunity. It's razor close but perhaps just because of Lukaku, Belgium take it.

While it's true England hasn't faced any of the tournament's big hitters yet, it has displayed the kind of carefree attitude that always escaped its predecessors and the chance of competing for soccer's biggest prize for the first time since 1966 has generated a sense of euphoria England hasn't experienced in years.

"He is lucky to be with a team with a fine generation of players". But perhaps he is getting somewhere: France have come through some tricky games to reach this stage and has found a system that works.

Here, Newsweek has ranked each of the four surviving teams and its prospects.

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France did raise a number of questions during the group phase of the competition over whether they were going to be able to live up to the significant hype surrounding their star studded squad.

France keeper Lloris braces for 'complete' Belgium team