Belgium has waited over three decades to get as far as the semifinals in a World Cup.
Samuel Umtiti’s second-half header sent the French side into a frenzy as they look set to win their first World Cup trophy since 1998.
France came through their quarter-final unscathed, and Deschamps has his entire squad to choose from, while Belgium are only slightly worse off.
With a berth in the final against the victor of Wednesday’s other semifinal between Croatia and England awaiting, France is now the firm favorite to lift the Jules Rimet trophy on Sunday. With Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, they lost in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and at the same stage at Euro 2016, but under Roberto Martinez in Russian Federation they have already taken an extra step after stunning Brazil in the last eight in Kazan.
It will be interesting to see who Roberto Martinez picks as his replacement. An estimated 3M-5M more likely watched on giant screens in bars and town squares throughout the country, which at this time of year especially in the south is flooded with Belgian tourists.
Wednesday represents a date with destiny, and Martinez plans to attend with the same mantra that once helped him and his players to numerous against-the-odds wins for Wigan in the Premier League: “No fear”. But we will be ready because we have an extremely good state of mind, and it is the semi-finals in the World Cup.
Belgium offers multiple threats, including the speed and trickery of forward Eden Hazard and the strength and finishing of striker Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in Russian Federation.
Did you know? When French goalscorer Samuel Umtiti first moved to Barcelona, his mother went with him and always made him finish his homework before he could go to training. One of the most legendary players the country has ever known, a World Cup and European victor with Les Bleus, the greatest goalscorer the national team has ever seen (51 goals in 123 caps), a former captain and an icon for a lot of French kids growing up.
France takes on its neighbors in Belgium, adding the weight of a rivalry to the already important match.
France midfielder Blaise Matuidi is available for selection after missing the victory against Uruguay because of suspension. The European neighbors meet in St. Petersburg to decide who will meet either England or Croatia in the final.
“It’s too early to make any assessment for the tournament”, he said.
French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told AFP pointedly that “we’ve rather lost sight of him and he has little contact with the federation”.
Mbappe and Lukaku are among the main marksmen for their countries.
Despite England being taken over by football fever, Wimbledon chiefs say the men’s final on Sunday will start at its traditional time even if it clashes with a possible appearance of the national team in the World Cup final. “We don’t want to have them taking the mickey out of us”.
“The peculiarity is that there are many players on my team who have club teammates facing them”.
Both squads have earned their way to the semifinals, with a stellar Belgium knocking off the tournament favorite, Brazil, in its quarterfinal match. Croatia needed penalties to oust hosts Russian Federation in the quarter-finals, while England knocked out Sweden.