Thierry Henry's presence adds spice to Belgium’s semi-final match against Franceby Andy Dillon / 10 July 2018, 15:28Tweet
The 2018 World Cup has now been shredded down to just four countries, two of which battle it out in the first semi-final at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night.
France and Belgium will lock horns for the 74th time in their history in what promises to be a compelling clash, jam-packed with non-stop drama, nerve-shredding suspense and ultimately a prized place in Sunday’s showcase spectacle for the victor.
There’s also a delightful dose of spice and surrealness in the form of Thierry Henry.
France’s all-time goalscorer (51 goals) lifted the 1998 World Cup with Les Bleus, but now 20 years later the 40-year-old could play a part in ending his country’s hopes of glory in Russia, as he takes a seat in the Belgian dugout alongside manager Roberto Martinez at Krestovsky Stadium.
Since 2016 Henry has been working as the second assistant to Martinez - Graeme Jones is the first assistant - and has been a huge benefit to the likes of Romelu Lukaku who has scored 17 goals and registered three assists in his last 13 games for Belgium.
France boss Didier Deschamps on his former World Cup winning teammate Thierry Henry who is now in the Belgium camp:— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) July 10, 2018
"When you go to a club abroad and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy."#FRABEL pic.twitter.com/34ltxooewJ
Henry will now be hoping he can help Belgium against his homeland, in what is the Red Devils' first World Cup semi-final in 32 years, with Tuesday’s duel only their second ever showing in the last-four since that 2-0 defeat to eventual 1986 winners Argentina.
Boss Martinez may have had his critics but Belgium’s groundbreaking quarter-final win over Brazil swatted many of the doubters, with his troops now a whopping 24 games unbeaten. Toppling a top team in a competitive clash will have done wonders for the players confidence, while the supporters can now start to believe that the Golden Generation can go on and win the golden trophy.
But standing in their way is Deschamps’ France who are looking to venture into their third World Cup final in 20 years. Les Bleus have only lost once in the last year while their World Cup knockout-stage record is very impressive: 10 wins from 12 games, and the 1998 World Champions have been installed as the 6/4 favourites to win in 90 minutes and 3/4 frontrunners to qualify.
Over in the opposition camp Belgium have been handed odds of 2/1 to triumph in normal time, and 21/20 to progress, whereas a draw can be found at 23/10 (Paddy Power).
In terms of the head-to-head record, France have won both World Cup clashes - 3-1 in 1938 and 4-2 in 1986 - while they trounced their European rivals 5-0 at Euro 1984.
The most recent encounter was a 4-3 thriller in favour of Belgium three years ago in an international friendly, and we’re backing another entertaining encounter with a 2-2 draw at 90 minutes catching the eye at 12/1 with Paddy Power.
Prediction: France 2-2 Belgium (France to qualify)