World Cup oracle cat to predict victor of France-Belgium

Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry looks on during a training session in Dedovsk

David Vincent Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry looks on during a training session in Dedovsk

"It will be weird to have him up against us", forward Olivier Giroud said. Casemiro's absence had already left the Selecao defence porous, but Hazard's mazy runs and sublime passing skills combined with Lukaku's intelligent link-up play and de Bruyne's authoritative midfield display produced one of the finest halves of World Cup football ever showcased by any nation. We want to go beyond our limits and grab what is the most lovely thing in football.

Belgium also possess great creativity and invention in the form of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

Back in Mexico 1986, Belgium got to the semifinals, but only after defeating the Soviet Union and Spain (the latter on penalties), two strong teams but with no World Cup titles between them by then.

Deadly duo: Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann have scored six of France's nine goals between them.

The tournament favourites take on the tournament's most potent attacking side.

But in competitive games, France have won 5 with Belgium winning 3 and drawing 3.

Also in contention are Croatia and England, who meet in Moscow on Wednesday.

Seven weeks ago, players and coaching team started working together at the base camp with the same goal: Their potential as players would be of use only if they could create a collective soul that would be stronger than any individual attempt. "But we know him, he has a lot of passion inside him, for football - and he will be with the Belgians and giving everything to help his team".

"(With) social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger".

In his exclusive column for the Times of India, former Argentina captain Diego Maradona wrote, "It's sad to see no South American challenge in the World Cup semifinals". Almost 20 million viewers tuned in for the win over Sweden and social media is awash with videos of excited fans watching on big screens in bars and parks, fanatically celebrating every England goal.

Top stat: Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 games for Belgium in all competitions - three assists and a whopping 17 goals.

England have been one of the tournament's surprises and have surpassed expectations by reaching the semi-finals.

Sterling was a key part of the Manchester City side that won the Premier League last season but he has been less effective in England's charge to the last four for the first time since 1990. I think he's the leader at the back.

Having dazzled its way through the group stages, Croatia was somewhat pedestrian in its two knockout games and needed penalty shootouts to overcome Denmark and Russian Federation.

Belgium have been superb at this year's tournament, finally dispelling the idea that they are a group of talented players who are unable to work effectively as a team.

Hazard has always remained just shy of shattering the glass ceiling - disinclined to shoot even when he has the opportunity, often opting for the selfless path out, putting his teammates ahead of himself - in many ways, the Belgian is the complete antithesis of Neymar.

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