France keeper Lloris braces for 'complete' Belgium team

Ross Houston
July 10, 2018

From a half of the draw that included Spain and Argentina, few would have predicted Croatia and England would be the two sides to make it through to this stage, with a place in the final now in their sights.

I was there at the Under-20 World Cup in Holland in 2005 and I can tell you a 17-year-old Messi was a more all-rounded player than Mbappe is now - already then he had a great intelligence and understanding of the game and could make the difference on his own or in a team setting. "It is a hard situation - freakish - it is not easy for him".

Maebe says that Belgium has developed from a country that used to play on gut instinct to a country that now works with statistics and the latest football data systems. Paul Pogba's waywardness from the right side of central midfield will leave space for the brilliant interplay between Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku.

"We will be more competitive". Belgium deserve high praise for their all-round performance against Brazil but in truth, they might not have even been in this semifinal were it not for a quite brilliant performance from Courtois, in particular his save from Neymar at the very last.

The two European big-hitters have progressed to the final four of the World Cup in Russian Federation after overcoming some high-profile opposition en route. It must have been tempting to try to find room for the flair of Thomas Lemar or Nabil Fekir but instead Deschamps shrewdly chose Giroud, rarely first choice for either his club sides last season, as what Antonio Conte always refers to as a "point of reference" for Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

Samuel Umtiti has been a mainstay in the France backline ever since he was parachuted in during the team's run to the Euro 2016 final. Eight of England's ten World Cup goals have been from dead balls, while Croatia have conceded three times from set-piece situations.

Griezmann has seven goals in his last six tournament knockout matches and nine goals and three assists in the World Cup and European Championship. On each of those occasions the tournament has been hosted in Europe.

Unlike Belgium, Les Bleus have the experience of playing on the big stage-this is the team's third semifinal of a major tournament in 12 years-and it continues to resemble a team still not playing at its full potential.

"It's going to be a good game to watch, I think, and enjoyable to play on the pitch".

"(With) social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger". The over-under on total goals scored in this 2018 World Cup match is 2.5.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates France's win over Uruguay. Croatia needed penalties to oust hosts Russian Federation in the quarter-finals, while England knocked out Sweden. I thought it was unbelievable how he did it, how he worked it out and how the players did it.

Croatia, who boast Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic in a strong midfield, emerged through extra-time and spot-kicks against Denmark before going through the same ordeal again against Russian Federation in Saturday's quarter-final.

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