Published: Вт, Июля 10, 2018
Sports | By Brooke Harris

These are the semi-final matchups at the FIFA World Cup (SCHEDULE)

These are the semi-final matchups at the FIFA World Cup (SCHEDULE)

As their captain Hugo Lloris has mentioned, the key to France's progress could be in how Paul Pogba grows into the tournament's final week. I say slight because modern recovery techniques and the depth in teams' medical staff can get players fresh a lot faster than they would earlier.

"What we didn't have was global experience, the know-how of winning a World Cup, the know-how of being a footballer expected to perform in front of the world, and knowing how you feel in those moments".

"It is weird to have Thierry against us in this match", Giroud told reporters. They were the beneficiaries of a Fernandinho own-goal before Kevin De Bruyne lashed in one of the best goals of the tournament after a rapid counter attack. For nearly all of his two years in charge, he has operated with a back three and it looked like the returning Vincent Kompany would slot in between Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

It is easy to see something similar happening on Wednesday, when N'Golo Kante will often be screening the defence alone as Belgium break. The approach worked then, but will it succeed against France's frequently devastating attacking trio? "We've been confident from the start and we're not asking any questions of ourselves". At the end, you do all you can to win and if they're better, they're better.

Again, this might depend on which system Martinez chooses.

"To play without fear would probably be the one thing which would help us the most". Martinez confided he doesn't think he's "able to describe what this means for the country" but promised his team's full focus is on France.

This is an extremely tough call.

France are unlikely to change much because they have been successful without needing to.

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Romelu Lukaku started the tournament on fire, and scoring 88.5, 79.5 and 101 points in his first three outings, placing him second in the race for the Golden Boot. 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. With Eden Hazard alongside him (though Dries Mertens hasn't shown his Napoli form) Belgium have a formidable forward line. In it, Pogba made his sixth assist of the season to Lukaku alone, having taken 51 games to reach the same number total in the previous campaign.

Now France's head coach, Deschamps admits it will be "strange" to see Henry in the opposite dugout.

The former Lyon starlet has been carrying a slight knee problem throughout the competition and was rested for the drab goalless draw against Australia in France's final group game.

France coach Didier Deschamps agrees Henry will be in a tough spot at the St Petersburg Stadium.

"The players have been working together extraordinarily well for many years, and they deserve to be exactly where they are today", Martinez told ESPN Sport. That's because their size, which bothered Brazil and maybe even caught them by surprise, won't intimidate France. Still, Martinez just edges this on the basis that he seems to add more to his team than Deschamps.

What's certain is that with one more win Les Bleus are back in the World Cup final for the first time in a dozen years.

France have conceded only three goals on the way to the semi-finals, and the central defensive pair snuffed out the attacking threat of Luis Suarez in the quarter-final against Uruguay, barely allowing him a touch in the penalty area.

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