France keeper Lloris braces for 'complete' Belgium team


France keeper Lloris braces for 'complete' Belgium team

France and Belgium meet in the first World Cup semi-final in St. Petersburg on Tuesday as two of the tournament's most talented teams aim to fulfill the promise latent within their ranks.

"When you face your old team you are part of the enemy team but this time it is a notch higher".

The team has yet to make a mark on a major tournament, but beating Brazil to reach the semi-finals will have instilled belief they can win the biggest prize of all. Forward Eden Hazard was too energetic and Romelu Lukaku too strong for the Brazilian defense.

And ahead of France meeting Belgium for a spot in the World Cup final, SPORTbible have combined for two teams in a fantasy XI.

But their secret weapon could be on the sidelines in the shape of one of France´s greatest players of all time, Thierry Henry, who is now head coach Roberto Martinez´s assistant. He is on the bench and facing his home nation.

"He will be feeling divided loyalties tomorrow", France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said on Monday.

Not only did this change help in pressurising the duo of Fernandinho and Paulinho, but it also gave playmaker Kevin De Bruyne the platform to take risks and put himself in advanced positions. While Hazard and De Bruyne will largely have free roles in the final third, Lukaku will look to stretch the defensive line in order to create space for his attacking partners to exploit and possibly find scoring opportunities.

"It might be a bit hard for him but he´s working for Belgium now, he wants us to win".

The game kicks off at 2 p.m. EST.

The French will remember well what happened when the teams last met, with Belgium tearing them apart in a 4-3 friendly win in Paris in June 2015.

In the European Championship final two years ago, France lost to Portugal 1-0.

France are favourites due to their mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final. Witsel has been the most underrated player at the World Cup this year and there is no one in the team who can replicate what he's been doing.

While many England fans are surprised by the unheralded team´s progress, midfielder Dele Alli says the squad always believed they could go far. "If we approach this match with fear within us, we will bring ourselves down and we'd be able to do so much less than what we can actually do", said Martinez. "We know each other inside out because many of us [who will be on opposite sides] play for the same clubs". "For him tomorrow it could be a bit hard, but he works for Belgium now, he wants us to win".

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

Captain Harry Kane is leading England´s charge with six goals so far, putting him top in the race for the Golden Boot.

"Especially a France that is still searching for the ideal way to let Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe perform optimally".

"This time, in an global match, it is much higher". Yes, in the game against Japan, he had to throw on his more aerial players in a bid to secure that sensational comeback victory but he outdid Brazil with a tactical masterclass where his team attacked the five-time champions at will.

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.