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N’Golo Kante, like he shackled Lionel Messi, will tie down Belgium: Didier Deschamps

N’Golo Kante will be the key to rein in Belgium’s formidable attack in the FIFA World Cup 2018 semi-finals on Tuesday, says Didier Deschamps.

football Updated: Jul 09, 2018 23:48 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Saint Petersburg
FIFA World Cup 2018,World Cup 2018,N’Golo Kante
France's midfielder N'Golo Kante runs during a training session of France's national football team at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, in Saint Petersburg, on July 9, 2018, on the eve of their 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-final football match against Belgium. (AFP)

France and Belgium share a 620 km border, French is spoken on both sides and there are several cultural aspects. But it is not merely these that will lend Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final clash at Krestovsky Stadium an air of familiarity.

Seventeen of the 46 players, five in the French team and 12 in the Belgian ranks, play in the Premier League; five others have had a stint.

“It is an unusual match because geographically, we have two countries bordering each other. We do play and know those players very well because they do play in the Premier League. They have three players from Tottenham (Hotspur) and I know them very well,” France skipper and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said on the eve of the game.

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“The peculiarity is that there are many players in my team who have their club teammates facing them. It’s an advantage for both sides,” coach Didier Deschamps said.

Another familiar face for France on the Belgian bench will be former Les Bleus star Thierry Henry, who is an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

“We played as teammates. He was much younger, I was towards the end of my career. But he jumped on the right train. Of course, it’s not an easy situation for him,” Deschamps, the 1998 World Cup-winning captain, said of his teammate from that triumphant side.

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Lloris too had played alongside Henry towards the end of the latter’s career.

“It will be a bit peculiar to see him with the Belgium team but that is his career. I think his heart will be split tomorrow,” he said of the Arsenal great.

Facing familiar foes, Deschamps said France will be prepared to deal with different situations.

“They attack very fast. So, I have made sure my players are prepared for any scenario at the beginning of the match with different compositions and during the match as well,” he said.

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Deschamps praised midfielder N’Golo Kante, who has been a critical part of his game plan at this World Cup.

“He will have an important role to play tomorrow in the same way he did in every match. When he faced Lionel Messi, for example, in the Round of 16, he had a very precise role and he did fulfil that role extremely well. So it is true that we did not see Messi much when he played us,” Deschamps said.

First Published: Jul 09, 2018 23:06 IST