Hazard and Courtois blast France after World Cup semi-final defeat

Hazard and Courtois blast France after World Cup semi-final defeat

Hazard was Belgium's most threatening player as his team struggled to find a way through a compact France outfit. Didier Deschamps' side advanced to the finals and will try to win the first title since 1998 when they meet England or Croatia.

On Saturday they will set about securing third place, which would be the country's best ever World Cup placing.

"Unfortunately for us the difference is a dead ball situation", Belgium manager Roberto Martinez told the BBC after the match, adding that his players "gave everything".

As play switched rapidly from end to end, the excellent Blaise Matuidi, back in the side after suspension, warmed Courtois' hands with a rising 18th-minute drive, but the impressive Raphael Varane had to get in a vital header to divert Hazard's curling effort away from goal seconds later.

This match promised to be an explosive contest and, for periods, it was.

He is now trying to minimise potential distractions as his young team prepare to take the next step in their bid to repeat their World Cup triumph at home 52 years ago.

Axel Witsel did test Lloris from distance but France succeeded where Brazil had failed in the last round, standing firm to stifle their neighbours in a nervy finish and book a trip to Moscow.

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He played with maturity in the tough conditions in West Indies and much will depend on how he carries himself in this series. The International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, is due to announce a verdict in the case soon.

The experience of having played in pivotal matches in relatively recent times nudging the Euro 2016 finalists ahead in the minds of those who like to talk about such things before a heavyweight contest.

France reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and was knocked out in the group stage at the 2010 World Cup.

Three of the five goals Belgium conceded were from dead-ball situations, but Martinez refused to admit that failure to prepare for defending set pieces was his team's undoing in Russian Federation.

However, opposite number Hugo Lloris was relieved to see Hazard drag his shot across goal three minutes later after De Bruyne had opened up the French defence. It was unexpected, and it outfoxed the Brazilians. The tactic worked, making it hard for the Red Devils to break France down.

It was a closely contested game as France emerged victorious thanks to Samuel Umtiti's goal early in the second half.

It has been the case for some years that Belgium, with a wealth of individual talent, possess the quality to challenge the very best. "I've not yet experienced a striker (Olivier Giroud) playing so far from goal". "It came down to a corner kick".

Yet while Hazard - Belgium's captain - faded after a strong opening 30 minutes, Mbappe was a constant threat.

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