– Chelsea Forward, Olivier Giroud has backed France to find a way past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal in St Petersburg.
– The striker Giroud, 31, has yet to score in Russia but wants to end that run against his teammate Courtois who they both ply their trade with Chelsea.
His words: “Thibaut is difficult to beat and he has been very good at this World Cup,” he told a news conference on Sunday.
“He has a strong defence in front of him, but I am sure we will be able to break through that wall.
“I have scored a few goals against Thibaut [in training] at Chelsea, and I intend to do the same again on Tuesday.”
Giroud praised Belgium skipper Eden Hazard, another Chelsea colleague, and France’s Kylian Mbappe as two of the best players he has worked with.
“Eden and Kylian are both geniuses,” he said. “Kylian is more serious — he makes calls from deeper, so is more attacking than Eden.
“That said, I have a special relationship with Eden at Chelsea — we need each other on the pitch. Eden is one of the three top players that I have played alongside during my career, but Kylian might be in that band too.”
Giroud predicted a tight game against Belgium, saying he felt it would be “a 50-50 match.”
“They have a great team, but we do too,” he said. “We have a big rivalry with Belgium — it is a derby, so this game will have an English feel to it. It is a special match.
They are third in the FIFA rankings and they possess a very good generation of players. It will be even harder than the last few matches.”
Mbappe told TF1 that France were “really proud” of their achievements so far, adding: “We know our own qualities. We need to get back to work to do the right things in the semifinal and allow ourselves to dream.”
Meanwhile, defender Benjamin Pavard rejected the idea that France would be favourites.
“Belgium are gaining momentum — they have great players, but we are sure of our qualities, and we have an exceptional squad that is very together,” he said.
“It is going to be a very complicated match. However, we are scared of nobody. Our squad is exceptional.
“We know that Belgium are a top team. We have played against [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, though, so we are afraid of nobody — we will work to keep them out too.
“People keep talking us up as favourites, but there are still four top teams left. Give it time — we will see after the Belgium match.”
French coach Didier Deschamps, also speaking to TF1, warned: “Belgium have great potential in attack, they possess a generation of great quality. The Belgians are at the best European clubs, and they deserve their semifinal berth.”