Monday, 19 November, 2018

Thierry Henry's 'heart will be split' by World Cup semifinal

Giroud in action for France. Image PA Giroud in action for France. Image PA
Kristopher Love | 10 July, 2018, 20:57

Croatia´s midfielder Luka Modric celebrates scoring his penalty during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Russian Federation and Croatia at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on July 7, 2018.

It's the first semi-final of the 2018 World Cup today and it sees Belgium take on France.

Much like their opponents, Les Bleus also boast of an arsenal of assassins up front. But, qualification to the knockout rounds seems to have turned on a switch.

"Quite simply, I think Belgium is the most complete side in the tournament, in all aspects of the game", the 31-year-old Lloris said Monday".

The Red Devils breezed past Panama and Tunisia as expected before earning a third group win against England with a reasonably comfortable 1-0 victory.

Kompany looked shaken by Brazil's speed in the second half of the quarter-final, which will give Mbappe confidence.

Both sides know what is like to turn results around during the current World Cup campaign.

Didier Deschamps has no major roster issues to deal with ahead of the semi-final tie.

In team news, Corentin Tolisso is likely to drop out in favour of Blaise Matuidi after the Juventus midfielder has served his one-game suspension.

Not particularly noticeable during games, Henry is rarely seen next to Martinez or his No 2 Graham Jones in the technical area.

There will be a "hunger to win" and a desire to show Henry that he picked the wrong side, France forward Olivier Giroud said. Samuel Umtiti, who anchors Les Bleus's back line, will be key in managing the pace and thwarting Belgian advances.

Why did Eden Hazard support France? There's still a sense that he could be doing more with the brilliant set of players at his disposal, France frequently a fairly stodgy team to watch, relying on moments of brilliance from Pogba, Mbappe or Griezmann. With no natural replacement in his squad, the Belgium manager will have to bank on the duo of Nacer Chadli and Yannick Carrasco to be his wing-backs.

Chadli didn't start the tournament but has been pivotal to this Belgian team.

Roberto Martinez smiles and reacts to the phrase "There comes a World Cup semifinalist" as he approaches the ESPN team that will talk to him at the Belgium base camp in Dedovsk. The West Bromwich Albion man will look to be influential once again with his marauding runs down the right flank.

Thierry Henry's presence at the 2018 World Cup has been as discreet as he can make it, but he cannot control all the cameramen turning their lenses on him, all the press conference enquiries about him or indeed, the exuberance of some Belgian players.

"Perhaps he will sing the Marseillaise (before the game), which I find normal", De Bruyne said. Thibaut Courtois and his defence were having none of it though.

The semi-final on Tuesday will be the 74th meeting between France and Belgium.

Both Belgium and France will battle it out for a place in the World Cup final, where the victor will face either England or Croatia next Sunday.

Henry is one of the biggest legends to ever come out of France, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998 before following it up two years later with victory in the European Championships.

In France, the game will air at 8 PM local time on leading commercial broadcaster TF1, which drew its largest audience of the tournament - and its highest ratings of the year - with 12.9 million watching France beat Uruguay.