Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry looks on during a training session in Dedovsk
10 July, 2018, 19:12
60 matches have been played and now the 2018 World Cup enters the semi-final stage with the first fixture seeing France take on Belgium at the St Petersburg Stadium.
Belgium will be seeking to break new ground by reaching the final for the first time in their history - indeed they have only reached the semi-finals once before, in 1986.
France and Belgium share a 620km-long border and on Tuesday they will share the same pitch on which they will battle it out for the right to contest the final of world football's showpiece tournament in Russian Federation. He did not play in the final at the Stade de France, but was in the team which won the European Championship final against Italy two years later in Rotterdam.
Belgium has finally lived up to the hype surrounding them!
France will be at full strength ahead of this game.
"It's peculiar because there are many players on my team who will be facing their own club team mates".
"We will need to anticipate (Mbappe) and be well-positioned. They are an adversary with great quality and there will be hard moments so we have be ready to suffer in order to reach the final".
Deschamps' comments would also appear to clear Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti to start against the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. Witsel and Marouane Fellaini aren't adept at stopping quick interchanges, and so the thought of Olivier Giroud's excellent lay-offs, Griezmann's brilliant space-creating passes, and Mbappe's speed should terrify Belgian fans.
The complete footballer, Kevin De Bruyne has again showcased his talents this summer, constantly performing and being central to all the good Belgium have achieved. France 3, Belgium 2 after extra time, as Olivier Giroud gets the victor. There could also have been a fascinating duel on the wings between French teen sensation Kylian Mbappe and his PSG team-mate Thomas Meunier but that won't happen since the Belgian is suspended for the game.
"When you go to a club overseas and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy", the France manager told the press. "However, during the match, there will be no friendship". A roster with most of its key players still under 25 meant that there was time to fulfill their potential.
Henry, a World Cup and European Championship victor with France as well as their record goalscorer, is now in the Belgium camp as assistant manager. Deschamps - famously dubbed as the "water carrier" for his style of play when he captained the France squad to victory in 1998; providing the legs for the more creative midfielders around him - and Martinez have very different approaches to the game. Yes, the likenesses between Kylian Mbappe and Henry are uncanny, except that Mbappe is still a teenager while stamping his mark on this tournament, while, 20 years ago, in France, Henry was a year older.
Lloris has been criticized during the past year after errors for France and Tottenham.
Even if a move to Madrid does materialise, Hazard will be denied a self-confessed dream of working under another French influence on his formation as a player, Zinedine Zidane.