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History beckons as France take on Belgium

10 July 2018

"He has a lot of passion for football and he will be with the Belgians, giving everything to help his team".

Belgium will play France at 6am Wednesday in the first semifinal of the FIFA World Cup.

The only difference being is that France have history to live up to.

France's 1998 World Cup victor Thierry Henry, pictured with Romelu Lukakau, is now assisting Belgium's strikers before their semifinal against France.

"There is a big rivalry between France and Belgium, it's like a derby match", said France striker Olivier Giroud ahead of Tuesday's last-four meeting in St. Petersburg.

"It happens sometimes when you play in a foreign club and come back and play against a French team". Paul Pogba will go against Marouane Fellaini. The last time they met in general, during a friendly in 2015, Belgium won 4-3.

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

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Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps does not have many injury concerns apart from Djibril Sidibe. "However, during the match, there will be no friendship".

Les Bleus have been steadily improving as the tournament has progressed, and in Kylian Mbappe, they have one of the best young strikers in the world.

"It's a group of people who share a vision of making Belgian football proud and achieving something important and these players have done that". Anyway, it is the Spaniard and long-term ally Jones who run the show, with Henry decorating the fringes on a relatively modest salary of around £100,000 a year that he is said to donate to charity. He is more proactive than reactive.

There's not much to choose between the two sides: both have superb goalkeepers, strong defences and attacking talent in abundance. A crucial victor against Japan demonstrates the danger he can provide, and earned him not only a place in Roberto Martinez's line-up but also our combined XI. He is also the first French player to score and assist in the same World Cup knockout game since Vieira in 2006.

"He's become a star in France but when I was playing against him for City against Monaco he'd only played 10 matches", he started. "He changed things, put his own mark and has great potential and I congratulate him at being here".

Otherwise, there was respect and admiration in equal measure.

Henry had little previous coaching experience and the president said he had "probably chosen the right solution" by taking the job of an assistant. "When they have the ball, they can perform and have everything they need".

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Lloris added: "Belgium are a very exhaustive team ... one that can attack and defend".

There was more of the same during Belgium's pre-match press conference. We immensely respect the quality of France.

"They are confident after that wild comeback against Japan and the beating the favourites Brazil - I reckon that the Belgians will be very confident coming into this one".

De Bruyne, speaking before Martinez, echoed similar thoughts. "There are two teams with very good players ... players who can create attractive football", he said. "However, each player will do what it takes to win".

Belgium have scored at least two goals in all but one game during this competition.

An early goal will really enliven this contest.

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History beckons as France take on Belgium