Thierry Henry's 'heart will be split' by World Cup semifinal

Rex Christensen
July 11, 2018

While France's 1998 World Cup winning team and 2006's runners-up have solidified Les Bleus" pedigree in the competition, Belgium's "Golden Generation' equaled a 32-year-old record by reaching their second-ever semifinal, emphasising a somewhat underwhelming footballing history.

Paul Pogba's waywardness from the right side of central midfield will leave space for the brilliant interplay between Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku.

The row over Henry's role has been raging for days and if Belgium win and Henry is caught on camera showing any kind of smile, we can expect him to become France's official public enemy number one.

France will meet a European side only for the second time during the current World Cup, as their previous opponents outside of Denmark included Australia, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay.

The former might lack the pace or the defensive ethic of Chadli, but he more than makes up for it with his link up play, crossing ability and instinctive nature in the box.

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.

60 matches have been played and now the 2018 World Cup enters the semi-final stage with the first fixture seeing France take on Belgium at the St Petersburg Stadium.

France have youth on their side but Didier Deschamps does his best to keep them organised and won't let them run wild and free.

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Still, the change in shape did not appear to bother the tournament's top-scorers in an absorbing first half, both teams threatening a breakthrough as they refused to be overawed by the occasion. There could also have been a fascinating duel on the wings between French teen sensation Kylian Mbappe and his PSG team-mate Thomas Meunier but that won't happen since the Belgian is suspended for the game. "It's not the Thierry Henry show; I am here to help the squad". Belgium boss Roberto Martinez may revert to a classic 4-4-2 formation, Fifa.com reports.

Chadli is the only player from West Brom involved on Tuesday after a season in which they were relegated, but he hardly played because of recurring thigh injuries. He is an obvious, natural role model for any forward, and the ideal one for, say, a precious, strong pacey striker who, like him, was born on the outskirts of Paris, and, like him, served his apprenticeship at Monaco and, like him, scored crucial goals to galvanise a World Cup campaign. As France captain, Deschamps won soccer's most prized trophy in 1998.

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

"It is weird", said Deschamps, "because he is French and that he will be on the bench of the opposition".

France pushed from the opening whistle, with Mbappe surging down the right-hand side and delivering a cross intended for Griezmann, only for Belgium to clear in time before it reached its destination.

"It is true it is a little peculiar to see him with the Belgium team", said Lloris. "They have great players, individual talents who can decide the game in one moment". "There is a lot of respect between us".

De Bruyne, speaking before Martinez, echoed similar thoughts.

He compared Henry's early steps in coaching to those followed by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid before he took the top job and went on to win three Champions League titles in a row.

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