ST PETERSBURG: Belgium and France meet in the World Cup semi-final at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday.
It will be only the second semi-final appearance for Belgium, but for France it is a sixth:
*Belgium’s only previous semi-final appearance came at the 1986 finals, where Diego Maradona turned on the second half magic and ensured for Argentina a place in the final with both goals in a 2-0 victory.
*In that tournament, Belgium squeezed through the first round in third place in their group after losing to hosts Mexico, before needing extra time to beat the Soviet Union in the last 16 and penalties to overcome Spain in the quarter-finals.
*Defender Eric Gerets rated the class of 2018 as more talented footballers than his 1986 team mates but said he did not believe they had the same fighting spirit until he saw their 2-1 win over Brazil in Friday’s quarter-final.
*After losing in the 1986 semi-final, Belgium faced France in Puebla for the bronze medal in the third place playoff and were beaten 4-2 after extra time despite taking an early lead.
*Belgium made it to the last eight at the last World Cup in Brazil but their hopes of a semi-final spot were snuffed out by one early Gonzalo Higuain goal for Argentina.
*There are 15 players from the 2014 Belgian squad who have returned for the tournament in Russia, having picked up considerable experience in the meantime.
*Just Fontaine’s record of 13 goals in a single tournament from the 1958 finals still stands as he helped propel the French to their first-ever semi-final, where they lost 5-2 to Brazil in Stockholm, with teenager Pele scoring a hat-trick.
*France lost on post-match penalties to West Germany in Seville in the 1982 semi-final, best remembered for an unpunished kung-fu style challenge by goalkeeper Harold Schumacher on France’s Patrick Battison that saw the Frenchman stretchered off 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute with a cracked vertebra and damaged teeth.
*Four years later in Mexico, France were again semi-finalists but once more thwarted by the Germans, losing 2-0 in Guadalajara.
*France won the World Cup when they hosted the 1998 finals, beating Croatia in the semi-final 2-1 with both goals from defender Lilian Thuram, but they had big defender Laurent Blanc sent off, meaning he missed the final win over Brazil.
*Current coach Didier Deschamps captained France that year as they lifted the trophy for the first time. He is now seeking to return to the final as he chases the double of winning the World Cup as both a player and a coach.
*France’s fifth semi-final appearance came in 2006, when Zinedine Zidane’s penalty was enough to beat Portugal 1-0.
Written by Mausam
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