France advances to World Cup final, beats Belgium 1-0

Belgium captain Eden Hazard is capable of turning the World Cup semifinal against France

PETR DAVID JOSEK AP Belgium captain Eden Hazard is capable of turning the World Cup semifinal against France

Mbappe, still just 19, has already moved clubs for 180 million euros ($212 million) and the Paris Saint-Germain forward announced himself on the World Cup stage with his brilliant performance in France's 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16.

The match is a meeting of Belgium's "Golden Generation" and a French team that is emerging as potential successors to the nation's all-conquering vintage of 1998. Victory against France - a team against whom they have historically, and somewhat surprisingly, enjoyed an upper hand; of their 73 games Belgium have won 30 to France's 24 - will only add to their growing legend.

"I feel that the most important aspect we worked on was the notion of being a team", Martinez says.

Deschamps had appeared cautious to allow players such as Mbappe free rein early on in Russian Federation, but there is the growing feeling that he is now offering more attacking licence to a team so rich in talent going forward. We need to rise to challenge and keep doing what we've been doing.

They rank 17th in the tournament for touches inside the penalty area (12.53 per game), and only 25.7% of their shots are on target, the seventh lowest in the World Cup.

Why did Eden Hazard support France? Fellaini has earned his place in the starting XI and will be partnering Witsel in the heart of the midfield. Kevin De Bruyne combined with the ex-Chelsea man to score a thunderous strike past a hapless Allison, dominating proceedings in an advanced false 9 role. The last time the two were involved in a Manchester derby, Pogba inspired a scintillating United comeback for a 3-2 victory.

Facing them is France, the 1998 World Cup victor, that has players such as Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba or Antoine Griezman. France legend Thierry Henry, who scored three goals as a 20-year old when France won it all in 1998, is now an assistant coach on the Belgian sideline. "However, during the match, there will be no friendship".

There were doubts about Roberto Martinez's ability to transfer Belgium's individual talent into a collective force. It also gives Antoine Griezmann space to roam.

Didier Deschamps unearthed a gem in Pavard. There isn't a philosophy to the French play, their style of play derived from the personnel they have.

As World Cup fever builds at home, England are avoiding the hype as the coach Gareth Southgate prepares his team in their tranquil base near Saint Petersburg for their first semi-final since 1990.

Martinez, on the other hand, is a coach who lays emphasis to attractive, attacking football.

Some of the Belgian team grew up playing in France.

Deschamps also took a jibe at Martinez. "I don't want to offend him but he has benefitted from the work done by [former Belgium coach] Marc Wilmots. On the personal front it is with great pleasure that I'm going to see him tomorrow".

Otherwise, there was respect and admiration in equal measure.

He said Henry had made Belgium into "a team that likes to attack". "They do it well, they do it fast".

Belgium is the team France has met the most over its history and we have to go back to 1904 for the first match. "There is a lot of respect between us". "France is a big test for us".

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