Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Sports | By Juana Wells

"Now I study him!" - How Mbappe's talent turned the tables on Hazard

These are both great teams with powerhouse offenses. "The best is Hugo".

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 on the basis of this tournament, we have to disagree with Giroud.

Belgium has finally lived up to the hype surrounding them!

At 4-1 up and with only minutes remaining, the visitors looked to be in complete control but Nabil Fekir scored his first global goal in the dying minutes when he fired past Thibaut Courtois and Dimitri Payet added an injury-time third for the battling French.

His electric pace has terrorised defenders the entire tournament and the likes of Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will have to be at their best to stop the 19-year-old.

Bringing back a system he used successfully during his first season at Everton, Martinez deployed a false nine and Lukaku on the right. That channel between Trippier and Kyle Walker has been a slight problem for England at times as Walker pushes forward from center back and Croatia may look to thread balls to Perisic as soon as they can when launching counter attacks.

Again, this might depend on which system Martinez chooses. Pogba has looked impressive alongside Kante in France's midfield, while Lukaku has scored four goals in the tournament. At training though, the 40-year-old is more prominent, setting up coaching drills and taking time to talk through situations with young striker Michy Batshuayi and the more experienced Romelu Lukaku. But there was no shortage of goals three years ago as Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini gave Belgium - who were managed by Wilmots - a 2-0 half-time lead, before second-half strikes from Radja Nainggolan and Eden Hazard appeared to put the result beyond doubt.

France will be at full strength ahead of this game.

This is an extremely tough call.

On Tuesday, however, he will come up against one of the world's best defensive midfielders in a battle that could go a long way to deciding the outcome. Thorgan Hazard, Eden's brother, is also in the Belgium team. Hazard has been a key figure in Belgium's free-scoring approach.

It's easy to be suspicious of Roberto Martinez, so much a smooth talker that he occasionally comes across as a motivational speaker or self-help guru who fell into football nearly by accident.

Each semi-final nation has a talismanic star among the favourites for the accolade in the form of Mbappe, Hazard, Harry Kane and Luka Modric, of France, Belgium, England and Croatia, respectively, yet while much was made of Mbappe's showing against Argentina, the fanfare was little more muted for Hazard's against Brazil.

The verdict remains out on Didier Deschamps. There's still a sense that he could be doing more with the brilliant set of players at his disposal, France frequently a fairly stodgy team to watch, relying on moments of brilliance from Pogba, Mbappe or Griezmann.

There were 32 teams, now there are just four.

France, Belgium, England and Croatia are the only four sides remaining and we will see France take on Belgium in the first semi-final, while England and Croatia will fight it out in the second semi-final.

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