Respect in equal measure as France and Belgium vie for final spot

France vs Belgium Kevin de Bruyne

The doubts regarding the extent of French progress in the World Cup was never about the personnel.

The two European big-hitters have progressed to the final four of the World Cup in Russian Federation after overcoming some high-profile opposition en route.

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said Henry might sing France's national anthem before the game, but his loyalties firmly lie with his new side.

The victor will face either Croatia or England, who play on Wednesday, in Moscow´s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.

Beyond the geographical and linguistic ties, many of these players also know each other intimately from the Premier League.

Belgium´s confidence will be high after knocked out Neymar´s Brazil in the quarter-finals and they are the only team to have won all their matches in Russian Federation, top-scoring with 14 goals.

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In front of Courtois at the back, Belgium have the experience of lynchpin Vincent Kompany who, even when questions linger over his fitness, brings a calm and composure to those around him.

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.

Paul Pogba who looked shackled previously, has started to dominate games, while N'Golo Kante has been at his destructive best, snuffing out potential attacks by the dozen.

Eden Hazard says he and his brothers, Thorgan and Kylian, supported France after watching Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998. It took several years and attempts for Belgium's golden generation to show that they are ready to finally take that leap forward, and this coaching team has a lot to do with their current success.

The most unpredictable and entertaining FIFA World Cup in recent memory wraps up this week, with just four matches left to be played. "It's not the Thierry Henry show; I am here to help the squad". Now he is an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and the two of them will be plotting how to get the better of France tactically.

Henry remains France's record goalscorer, with 51 goals from his 123 internationals over 13 of the most fruitful years of his country's football history.

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Belgium´s Kevin De Bruyne said Henry had talked little about his feelings.

"I don't think there's an easy answer for that because Mbappe is an exceptional player under those circumstances". "They are an adversary with great quality and there will be hard moments so we have be ready to suffer in order to reach the final".

World Cup action resumes today with the first semifinal matchup, pitting France against Belgium in a match that will kickoff at 2:00pm ET.

Roberto Martinez's surprise 4-3-3 was just insane enough to confuse the Brazil defence throughout the first half of their quarter-final, which puts them in a strong position to do something similar on the counter-attack against France - particularly through the middle. There isn't a philosophy to the French play, their style of play derived from the personnel they have.

"All the players think that our manager is a step ahead tactically, and I think that our hunger for victory will be greater than theirs".

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