Kevin De Bruyne’s versatility paying off for Belgium at World Cup

Carla Harmon
July 10, 2018

England on their part finally broke their decade-long jinx of spot-kicks in the last 16, and the likelihood of another penalty shootout can not be ruled out in the must-win-match between the adversaries.

It feels faintly absurd to favourably compare a midfield diamond featuring Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli with France's but the objective of that set-up is to get the best from their more accomplished players. As a coach you don't have to mention what you have done as player in the past.

The Croatians just battled Russian Federation for 120 minutes in an exhausting affair in Sochi.

France came through their quarter-final unscathed, and Deschamps has his entire squad to choose from, while Belgium are only slightly worse off. "But tomorrow, as a professional, he will be channeling all his passion into the Belgian team". Southgate's squad does it again here, with another set piece goal. Deschamps' men are yet to hit the top gear, though.

In addition to playing a fearless match, the former Everton boss pinpointed the importance of a collective display from a side in which many of its players have been together with the national side for years.

In contrast, France sleep-walked through the group stages, eking out wins over Australia and Peru before a stultifying 0-0 draw with Denmark. An Edinson Cavani-less Uruguay offered nearly nothing going forward in a quarterfinal meeting.

Belgium have undeniably been the standout side in the tournament, scoring a total of 14 goals in five matches.

Croatia will be physically and emotionally exhausted after back-to-back penalty shootout victories, which hands a clear advantage to England should they make a quick start to the game on Wednesday. The win will not only confirm France's place in the Final, but it also show that the team is ready to become the world powerhouse everyone expects them to be sooner than later.

On Giroud facing Courtois, Zouma added: "I played against him a few times and he is a good player, he is holding the ball very well and he is fighting for every ball". He's doing plenty of the things strikers rarely get credit for.

"When you go to a club overseas and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy", said the France coach. He scored the most goals, is second in terms of number of caps.

While France didn't need Mbappe to be at his best in a one-sided win over Uruguay, the 19-year-old will want to resume his role as this World Cup's most exciting player.

As for Belgium, their Golden Generation put in one of the best tactical performance of the World Cup to defeat Brazil 2-1.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has picked Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele to replace Thomas Meunier for the World Cup semifinal against France.

It's easy to be suspicious of Roberto Martinez, so much a smooth talker that he occasionally comes across as a motivational speaker or self-help guru who fell into football nearly by accident. If I'm Martinez, I play the exact same way I did against Brazil and only open up and increase numbers going forward if France takes a lead.

Not to mention Romelu Lukaku and N'Golo Kante who have also starred in Russian Federation. The decision to switch formations might have been inspired, as much as anything else, by the desire to get Kevin de Bruyne further forward, which paid off handsomely with what turned out to be the decisive goal.

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