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France's Kylian Mbappe deserves Ballon d'Or Eden Hazard

11 July 2018

The connections between the two national team setups have become increasingly apparent in the two barren days between the last quarterfinal and the start of the last four. St Petersburg is home to numerous art form's greatest dancers, theatres and companies.

Gary Neville pretty much summed up what we were all thinking after Kylian Mbappe pulled off an outrageous piece of skill against Belgium. Both sides are coming off of impressive quarter-final performances and there is a sense that the victor of the tournament will probably come from this tie.

"We've been great so far in the World Cup", Debregeas said. He did not play in the final at the Stade de France, but was in the team which won the European Championship final against Italy two years later in Rotterdam. "For him tomorrow it could be a bit hard, but he works for Belgium now, he wants us to win". "I would be proud to show him that he picked the wrong side". "Forty-nine days together, it is a lot of things - hard things - it is the merit of everyone". Roberto Martinez's team was held to just three shots on frame. "The game was, as you can imagine, very close, very tight, and it was going to be decided (on) maybe the one that it could find that final touch in the box".

"The attitude of the players was brilliant and we couldn't ask for anymore". That first Cup-winning team from 20 years ago?

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But that is not what happened, with Martinez going for a flat back four with Jan Vertonghen at left-back and Dembele in midfield.

Hazard was unsafe again moments later when he cut in from the left and unleashed a rasping drive which clipped off the back of Raphael Varane and just over the bar.

Hugo Lloris, who made a stunning save in the quarter-final against Uruguay, then made another brilliant stop to deny his Tottenham team-mate Toby Alderweireld from a corner.

The former Everton manager will have a big absence since Thomas Meunier is out due to suspension.

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French striker Olivier Giroud has now played almost eight hours of football (464 minutes) at the 2018 World Cup without managing a single shot on target.

Giroud did at least have a part to play in the decisive opener as, after his shot was deflected wide, Griezmann's corner was flicked in at the near post by Umtiti.

Bringing back a system he used successfully during his first season at Everton, Martinez deployed a false nine and Lukaku on the right.

However, the Manchester United boss singled out Pogba, his charge at Old Trafford, for particular praise, heralding the player's "mature" performance but also criticizing numerous Belgian players for "hiding" on the biggest stage.

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Once in front, France had even more space to exploit Mbappe's pace, but it was a majestic piece of skill that almost created a second with a backheel that again freed Giroud only for Mousa Dembele to block.

France's Kylian Mbappe deserves Ballon d'Or Eden Hazard