SportsWorld Cup


World Cup semifinal preview: Belgium vs. France

World Cup semifinal preview: Belgium vs. France
Posted at 2:35 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 07:08:04-04

MOSCOW (AP) - The Latest on Tuesday's World Cup semifinal game between Belgium and France, airing at 2 pm on Fox 4.


The World Cup semifinal stage is beginning with the all-European lineup being celebrated by soccer's governing body on the continent.
Belgium and France play in St. Petersburg today and then Croatia and England meet the following night in Moscow.
It is the fifth time the last four has featured only European teams.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says "even though some of our traditional contenders such as Germany, Spain and Portugal were eliminated, there are other teams which have surpassed expectations and can now win the title."
In a statement to The Associated Press, Ceferin added "these results validate all the work that is being done across the continent to develop football, and they also showcase the strength and quality that exists across the whole UEFA region."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez says midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is such a talented footballer he could play him virtually anywhere and he'd excel.
It's not yet clear what role De Bruyne will play for Belgium against a highly fancied France team in Tuesday's World Cup semifinal.
Martinez is just grateful he has one of the English Premier League's standout players in his squad.
Martinez says, "It's essential to have a player like Kevin - that he can play different roles."
He adds that, "apart from goalkeeper I could tell you that he could not just play, he could perform at the highest level in any position. That's the quality that he has."
The Manchester City midfielder had a relatively quiet start to the tournament - by his high standards - playing a deeper and more defensive role than he occupies at club level but was at his best in the quarterfinals.
Kylian Mbappe has skipped the start of France's practice session a day ahead of the World Cup semifinal match against Belgium.
Mbappe was absent when the squad trained at St. Petersburg Stadium on Monday afternoon. Only the first 15 minutes of the session is open to media and it was unclear if he joined the team once reporters, photographers and camera crews were ushered out.
Earlier, France coach Didier Deschamps told a pre-match news conference that four of his players would only have a light training workout, but that all 23 would be fit to play.
Mbappe has scored three goals at the World Cup and struck fear into defenses with his electrifying pace.
France coach Didier Deschamps was bemused by a question during a news conference on the eve of the World Cup semifinal match against Belgium.
A Russian journalist asked Deschamps for his thoughts on the performance on the Russia team, which reached the quarterfinals against most expectations. But Deschamps was only interested in talking about France vs. Belgium.
Pressing the translation device against his ear, a startled-looking Deschamps paused and asked the FIFA official sat nearby "are you sure he's asking me this question? I should speak about Russia? Really?"
The FIFA official intervened, saying another question should be asked - at which point Deschamps - still sounding baffled - spoke again.
"We're on the eve of a (semifinal) match. I've already spoken about Russia. I don't really see the point, whether it's for the French journalists, the foreign journalists, Belgian journalists, or others."
Deschamps then added: "Right, let's move on."
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris says his former France teammate Thierry Henry's heart will be torn when Les Bleus take on Belgium in the World Cup World Cup semifinals.
Henry is now an assistant to Belgium coach Robert Martinez, and will be helping Belgium try to reach its first World Cup final.
But Henry is also France's record scorer with 51 goals, and helped France win the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship two years later. Henry played 123 times for France, retiring from international football after the 2010 World Cup.
Lloris, who made his France debut 10 years ago, says "I'm lucky enough to have played alongside (Henry) for two years with France. He was an immense player," Lloris adds, "I think his heart will be divided tomorrow, because above all he is French and he experienced some great times with the France team."
Although Lloris, who is set to win his 103rd international cap, says Henry "left his mark on French football," he accepts "he will be doing the most to help his team."
More AP World Cup coverage:

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)