Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Blaise Matuidi returns for France, Belgium draft in Mousa Dembele

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Julia Gonzales | 11 July, 2018, 03:02

Samuel Umtiti headed in from a corner for the only goal of the game to knock Belgium out, and Martinez said that while he was pleased his team negated France's threat on the counter-attack, his players did not show their usual finesse in front of goal.

Belgium is the team France has met the most over its history and we have to go back to 1904 for the first match. "Of course, it is a hard situation, it really is not easy for him", said Deschamps. "I felt we started the second-half with a better tempo and were growing into the game when we conceded from a corner". I don't think it's a case of us not being focused enough.

Martinez - who had seen his team rally from a two-goal deficit in their last-16 tie against Japan - reacted to the goal by sending on Dries Mertens in place of Mousa Dembele.

Cape Town - Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe left fans fans stunned with a ridiculous bit of skill as France defeated Belgium 1-0 in a tense World Cup semi-final clash at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

England are in the last four of a major tournament for the first time since Euro '96, when Southgate himself missed a penalty in a shootout defeat against Germany.

"It's essential to have a player like Kevin - that he can play different roles, " Martinez said Monday, on the eve of the semifinal. "Apart from goalkeeper I could tell you that he could not just play, he could perform at the highest level in any position. That's the quality that he has".

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Didier Deschamps, the France manager, and Henry's captain when the World Cup and 2000 European Championship were won by Les Bleus, calls it "bizarre" that his compatriot will be on the opposing bench this afternoon, encouraging not Mbappe but the likes of Romelu Lukaku. With Thomas Meunier suspended for Belgium, France could attack through the left flank which could free up space for Mbappe on the right. "But after five minutes, I understood why the coach asked us to do that, that's why I say that it's all thanks to the coach; it was he who created this plan and knew how to implement it".

Everything was slayed to perfection by Roberto Martinez's men in the previous match, finally meeting expectations set by Federation Internationale de Football Association and the judging eyes of the world.

"Will they do something similar for us?"

The Barcelona man's 51st-minute winning header made him the third French defender to score at this tournament.

"We have spoken a few times over the phone", the Belgium skipper said. "France are used to these big games but we coped with that side really well".

France, the 1998 champions and runners-up in '06, will play either Croatia or England in Sunday's final at Moscow. With the sides hard to separate on paper, how they handle the pressure, and perhaps those little nuggets of inside knowledge, could make all the difference.

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