Belgium ace De Bruyne: I'd never heard of Mbappe

Annette Crawford
July 10, 2018

OVERLOOKING the Gulf of Finland, the Krestovsky Stadium awaits a football classic on Tuesday evening.

Two evenly-matched teams with a lot of star power, two teams with a lot of similarities in the make-up of their squads and both who know each other pretty well. The semifinal clash of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to return to the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006. "France will pose a different test".

Henry lifted the World Cup with France in 1998 and the European Championship two years later.

Belgium´s confidence will be high after knocked out Neymar´s Brazil in the quarter-finals and they are the only team to have won all their matches in Russian Federation, top-scoring with 14 goals.

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.

Deschamps said: "We were team-mates but he jumped on the right train and I'm delighted for him".

"This will not be an easy situation for him and it sometimes happens at club level". Elsewhere, Didier Deschamps is likely to keep faith in the side that has done so well for him in Russian Federation.

It feels faintly absurd to favourably compare a midfield diamond featuring Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli with France's but the goal of that set-up is to get the best from their more accomplished players.

Striker Romelu Lukaku has four goals and an assist in his four games and has drawn praise for his unselfish play. Witsel and Marouane Fellaini aren't adept at stopping quick interchanges, and so the thought of Olivier Giroud's excellent lay-offs, Griezmann's brilliant space-creating passes, and Mbappe's speed should terrify Belgian fans. France came back from a 1-2 deficit against Argentina, while Belgium turned an 0-2 defeat into a 3-2 win over Japan.

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said Henry might sing France's national anthem before the game, but his loyalties firmly lie with his new side. "Each player would be defending his colours".

Kevin De Bruyne was given a more advanced role and he hurt the Selecao time and time again, but Martinez can not spring the same surprise, although he may get some inside knowledge from assistant Thierry Henry, France's record goalscorer. For him this game could be hard but he is working for us now and he wants us to win.

"You might get that chance again, but it's better to seize it when you get it", France coach Didier Deschamps said. Lloris has been criticized during the past year after errors for France and Tottenham.

'In Belgium we can't follow the path of a previous generation that's won the World Cup. He is more proactive than reactive.

"It is weird", said Deschamps, "because he is French and that he will be on the bench of the opposition". Probably. Their team is geared forward. "They do it well, they do it fast".

Belgium's 27-year-old skipper is far more unpredictable. "They are a fantastic team".

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. "France are very much similar to us in terms of individualities", Martinez said on Monday.

At Belgium's neat, understated training centre 50 minutes outside Moscow there have been plenty of questions about Henry over the last three weeks but not a great deal of interest in answering them. We immensely respect the quality of France. "Because they are young, they are determined and they are still growing as players". It's a unique moment for us to improve further.

De Bruyne, speaking before Martinez, echoed similar thoughts. "However, each player will do what it takes to win". But for me, more important was how they executed the plan. The will to win can make a difference when the gap between teams is so close.

An early goal will really enliven this contest.

He too has pace and dribbling ability, but there's more to his game than that.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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