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Thierry Henry can be difference against his own nation

10 Juillet 2018

Who will come out on top?

"At the time, there wasn't the jersey of Belgium, that's why we wore the one of France". Martinez added he reckons the St. Petersburg stadium will see a battle of "very similar nations" on Tuesday.

Tuesday will be the first time Belgium has contested a World Cup semifinal in 32 years.

The French then showed their steel in the 2-0 disposal of Luis Suarez and Uruguay in the quarter-finals. Barring a Kylian Mbappe-inspired 4-3 victory over Argentina, France have lacked cohesion in the final third. However, things will be far more complicated for France this time around. France will need to show their maturity here.

With Thomas Meunier suspended for Belgium, France could attack through the left flank which could free up space for Mbappe on the right.

France midfielder Blaise Matuidi is available for selection after missing the victory against Uruguay because of suspension. But some doubt whether he has the desire to back up his enormous talent and challenge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the world's best player.

The golden generation of Belgium is trying to win their maiden worldwide title, to set a benchmark for its teams of the future to be compared to.

However, this apparent inexperience must not be mistaken for The Red Devils' weakness.

France did raise a number of questions during the group phase of the competition over whether they were going to be able to live up to the significant hype surrounding their star studded squad. Will Belgium be up to the challenge? He did not play in the final at the Stade de France, but was in the team which won the European Championship final against Italy two years later in Rotterdam.

The victor between France and Belgium on Tuesday will face either England or Croatia in the World Cup final on Sunday. All yellow cards are wiped out after the quarter-final to ensure no player is suspended in the final should he be booked in the semis.

Friends and foes at the same time?

Enigmatic and controversial, Paul Pogba makes it into the starting XI here.

Since Le Bleus' title success at the 1998 World Cup on home soil, Le Bleus are yet to have their hands on the title, though they came close at the 2006 edition but missed out in a dramatic penalty shootout against eventual victor Italy. "We are getting closer to our goal, but our opponents will be even stronger than before". Pogba has looked impressive alongside Kante in France's midfield, while Lukaku has scored four goals in the tournament.

Three of the last four meetings between the sides have produced under 2.5 goals in total. "He brings to the table his experience as victor of a World Cup. that's golden for you to have".

Belgium won two of those, including the last one: an exhibition three years ago at Stade de France when the Belgians took a three-goal lead five minutes into the second half and held on to win 4-3.

In 29 matches for France, both in the underage sides and the seniors, Pavard has not lost a game.

"We saw N'Golo up against Argentina's Messi - he was given a specific role, and he did exactly what was asked of him". One where the stakes will be extremely high between two attacking-minded sides. "I think that Thierry Henry can be credited with some of the tactical ploys".

Thierry Henry can be difference against his own nation