World Cup - France v Belgium semi-final
In France v Belgium, we have two talented squads that showcase the best of football and the best of immigration10 July 2018 | FT Editor
France v Belgium
No local news today from any of the traditional press, so we're sharing a few news reports related to the match which you may not find in your normal reading habits, as well as an assessment of each team from their respective embedded reporter.
- France goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, says Belgium "is the most complete team" of the tournament and that he and France will need to be at their best to beat them. It is Lloris' 103rd national team cap.
- In fact, with the quality of the strikers on show in this semi-final, some are predicting it could be a "goal fest".
- Paul Pogba hasn't scored a goal or provided an assist in Russia, but his contribution is vital to the team.
- Good read hear via Politico on how it's "Time to stop laughing at Belgium".
- Indeed - our contributor Matthew Galea outlined one - or is that two? - of the reasons behind Belgium's success also, and it's down to Kevin De Bruyne's and Romelu Lukaku's decisions about their respective careers.
- How France v Belgium is a celebration of immigration.
- "France and Belgium boast one of the most talented squads in the whole world, and while whoever scores the winner in Tuesday’s semi-final will not end right-wing debates on immigration, it will point to a successful and rich future that is a celebration of cultural integration that comes together and produces something quite beautiful."
- What do you know about the two coaches, Didier Deschamps and Roberto Martinez? The two men are "diametrically opposed" in terms of their approach - one prepared to be the pragmatist, the other preferring to have an attacking approach come what may ... almost. The article starts and ends with an anecdote about how to beat Barcelona in 2012 and it gives a good insight into both Deschamps and Martinez.
- And, finally, for what it's worth, Goldman Sachs has changed its predictions again about who will win the World Cup. They're now going for Belgium who, they say, has a 32.6% chance of winning it. Check out our tips from before the World Cup, and also let us know who you're backing out of the four semi-finalists with our poll.
- Our tip? We're sticking with Belgium.
by Adrien Gingold
Not so long ago, Didier Deschamps would have been criticised for this aspect of his France team, with some journalists alleging that Les Bleus had a thousand faces and no real identity. In fact, it is emerging as a vital attribute. Functional during their group matches, France were spectacular against Argentina, then solid and efficient against Uruguay. Three different French teams ? No - the same, but with different tactics.
France know how to adapt their style depending on their opponents, and that is a rare and precious ability. The tactical set-up can be 4-3-3 one match and 4-2-3-1 the next, while Deschamps can decide to use Olivier Giroud’s size or Kylian Mbappé’s speed to destabilise defences.
As we've seen during this World Cup, there are no weak teams anymore and even giants like Germany and Spain had a hard time playing 'their game'. Possession doesn’t ensure victory and experience doesn’t guarantee success. Options are everything.
Belgium: Team spirit
by Simon Massart
The Belgians arrived with one of the best squads on paper, but their biggest success in Russia has been establishing strong collective values.
This may represent their most important asset simply because it has not always been present in the past. Nor has this Belgium team previously been famed for resilience, which they showed in bucket-loads against both Japan and Brazil. Their star individuals, including the magic trio of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, have stepped up when needed. But it's also worth noting that the Red Devils have had nine different goalscorers in Russia. Everyone is playing their part.
Roberto Martinez, too, seems to be the right man at the right time, as he looks to have found a way to get the best from his collection of stars and bring them together as a unit. In this Belgian squad, everyone is fit to play and ready to make sacrifices on the pitch or, in some cases, to accept their status as substitutes and support their team-mates.
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