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Belgium star Hazard: I used to support France growing up

11 July 2018

The first match of the World Cup semi-finals is upon us, featuring France battling it out with neighbor Belgium at Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Samuel Umtiti scored the victor, which was a fitting conclusion considering how huge the French defence has been all tournament long.

"Belgian football has got a wealth of young talent coming through", said Martinez.

"You have to accept it, congratulate France and wish them well for the final".

Belgium's touch map, via WhoScored.

Expected goals - an advanced analytic used to determine the quality of a shot - backs up the latter claim.

Antoine Griezmann took charge of the ensuing corner, lofting it in for Umtiti who somehow managed to rise above Marouane Fellaini to head a shot past Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.

The promise of Kylian Mbappe has delivered with three goals while replacement fullbacks, Theo Hernandez and Benjamin Parvard have cemented their place in the starting XI.

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Eventually, Kante, Pogba and Matuidi opted for a more direct approach when they had the ball in their defensive third. This was a new French national team, rarely flashy and uncompromisingly solid.

Even in defeat, Eden Hazard attempted everything possible to try and nick an equalizer for Belgium. The French will remember well what happened when the teams last met, with Belgium tearing them apart in a 4-3 friendly win in Paris in June 2015.

Despite a comfortable scoreline, Belgium's defence was horrific against Brazil. The absence of Casemiro and the return of Marcelo allowed Belgium to exploit tons of space in behind, especially Brazil's left side via Romelu Lukaku.

However, De Bruyne went on to add that Belgium are not anxious by France's firepower up front.

That is why Belgium failed to create any chances in the box.

Still, many experts seemed to believe the favorited France would come out victorious.

The strategy might've paid off if the corner before Umtiti's goal had been cleared, too.

Thierry Henry's presence at the 2018 World Cup has been as discreet as he can make it, but he cannot control all the cameramen turning their lenses on him, all the press conference enquiries about him or indeed, the exuberance of some Belgian players.

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"The peculiarity is that there are many players on my team who have club teammates facing them". However, if Lukaku is asked to hold up the ball and be a decoy, he's nowhere near as effective.

His performance meant he started against Brazil in the quarterfinal in Kazan.

Belgium's 27-year-old skipper is far more unpredictable.

Belgian and French supporters gather at a cafe on July 9, 2018 near the French-Belgian border, ahead of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Belgium and France on July 10, 2018.

Belgian citizen Gregory Oleffe and Olivier Debregeas from France debate Tuesday's World Cup match between their two countries.

Along with the French and Gabonese presidents and the king and queen of Belgium, there was rock "n" roll royalty watching the game. But one thing remained familiar: Les Bleus were World Cup finalists again. To be so close to lifting the trophy, with everyone in form, losing in the semis is tough to accept.

Lukaku has enjoyed a great World Cup so far - following on from scoring 27 goals in his first season with Manchester United.

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Belgium star Hazard: I used to support France growing up