Sports

France eyes World Cup final but Belgium has Henry factor

France eyes World Cup final but Belgium has Henry factor

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.

Belgium winger Eden Hazard has praised Roberto Martinez ahead of his countries semi-final against France on Tuesday evening.

Can Belgium follow up their quarter-final win over Brazil by dumping out the 1998 World Cup winners and book their place in the final?

How will he feel standing there in front of the Belgian bench, just a few metres away from the French one?

Key battle: With Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all out, Hazard is arguably the biggest star still at the World Cup. Subscribe to our SMS sports service by texting "SPORTS" to 22840. "I don't resent him", he said.

The 41-year-old gave France a penalty in the 2-1 win over Australia, the first time a spot kick had been awarded at a World Cup after reference to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). He is also the first French player to score and assist in the same World Cup knockout game since Vieira in 2006. I am not sure if I pass for an old guy, but. In it Griezmann and a pint-sized friend chase down Henry and, after bending over to sign a soccer ball, the player turns to a pair of teammates and says "they're our successors".

Eden posted a wall chart of his team's path to the World Cup Final three weeks ago, before the tournament even began, showing them overcoming Brazil in the quarters, France in the semis and then defeating England to take the Jules Rimet trophy back to Brussels.

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Jones' win over him previous year was ruled a no-contest after Jones tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. A predictable shoving match ensued, setting the stage for a potential showdown between the two later this year.

"Our last three games were different because we played teams with a defensive approach", he said.

The last time when both France and Belgium reached the FIFA World Cup semi-final in the same edition was in 1986.

"He has brought us that important element of experience", the coach said on Friday. The France boss should thus, have his entire squad at his disposal on Tuesday, with Blaise Matuidi now available after serving a one-match suspension against Uruguay, although Djibril Sidibe is a minor doubt.

"If we win, he will also be happy because ultimately he is a Frenchman", said France defender Lucas Hernandez on Saturday.

The precocious talent of the young Hazard did not pass unnoticed at Clairefontaine, the France Football Federation's elite forming school, and overtures were made to try and persuade him to represent his adopted country.

France boss Didier Deschamps, who shared an worldwide dressing-room with Henry for three years, said: "Of course, it is a hard situation, it really is not easy for him, and it does happen sometimes". "I would be very proud to show Thierry that he chose the wrong camp".


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