Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Umtiti header sends streetwise France into World Cup final

Umtiti header sends streetwise France into World Cup final Umtiti header sends streetwise France into World Cup final
Sidney Guerrero | 11 July, 2018, 04:51

The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to return to the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006.

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. It signalled the blossoming of the defensive duo of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, who had managed to keep Luis Suarez and co at bay with rock-solid display at the back.

Lukaku led the counter-attack which led to Belgium's second goal against Brazil in the quarter-final and also set up their victor against Japan in the second round with an astute, unselfish dummy.

Martinez replicated his tactic at Everton of deploying Romelu Lukaku as a right-winger against the adventurous Marcelo, leaving the Manchester United forward to torment Miranda and kickstart a plethora of counter-attacks.

France and Belgium share a 620km-long border and on Tuesday they will share the same pitch on which they will battle it out for the right to contest the final of world football's showpiece tournament in Russian Federation.

But here's one thing Deschamps can be sure of: if Lukaku has a one-on-one duel with the French goalkeeper, and pauses just before the final shot, or if Eden Hazard cuts in from the left and curls his shot across Hugo Lloris, each of them will have taken expert advice on how to finesse those manoeuvres from one Thierry Henry, French legend.

France coach Didier Deschamps agrees Henry will be in a tough spot at the St Petersburg Stadium.

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Against an on-fire Kylian Mbappe, Hazard might be required to put another defensive shift in.

Thierry Henry was also part of that victorious France squad in 1998. He has a specific job on the Belgium coaching staff, to coach the attacking players and counsel on strategies; it is part-time role, outside his broadcasting work in English television, and his rank in the Belgian staff hierarchy is well beneath that of manager Roberto Martinez. France forward Antoine Griezmann shouted during the post-match celebrations. Eight of England's ten World Cup goals have been from dead balls, while Croatia have conceded three times from set-piece situations.

'They are a great side and have a fantastic generation of players.

To stand a chance, Belgium needed to optimise their attacking threats, while simultaneously ensuring that they don't grant space to Brazil's quartet of attackers. We know there are going to be hard moments, and we'll have to be ready to suffer. "On a personal level it is with great pleasure that I'm going to see him tomorrow".

Belgium have undeniably been the standout side in the tournament, scoring a total of 14 goals in five matches. "The game was, as you can imagine, very close, very tight, and it was going to be decided (on) maybe the one that it could find that final touch in the box".

France and Belgium have met a staggering 73 times, their first meeting having been a 3-3 draw in 1904. We immensely respect the quality of France. "However, each player will do what it takes to win".

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