Respect in equal measure as France and Belgium vie for final spot

Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry looks on during a training session in Dedovsk

David Vincent Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry looks on during a training session in Dedovsk

England are the surprise package at this World Cup and they take on Croatia in Wednesday's second semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and Whelan fancies them to win too. "They have great players, individual talents who can decide the game in one moment".

The Belgian team, which leads the tournament scoring in Russian Federation with 14 goals in its five World Cup matches, will rely on someone with an intimate knowledge of France on Tuesday: former France striker and current Belgium assistant coach Thierry Henry.

If Griezmann wins, he will have proved a worthy successor indeed by taking France to a World Cup final for the first time since Henry retired from the national team eight years ago.

But while Henry remains a France icon and his nation's record goalscorer, he is now plotting their downfall as assistant coach to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

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"I'm lucky enough to have played alongside [Henry] for two years with France". In the four years since, Kante has nearly appeared out of nowhere to win two Premier League titles, finish second at Euro 2016 and become the heartbeat of the current French team.

The first match sees France take on Belgium on Tuesday in what promises to be a thrilling encounter between two closely matched teams. With former France striker Thierry Henry as an assistant coach, Belgium leads the scoring in Russian Federation with 14 goals in its five World Cup matches.

And that's not sitting well with everyone on the French side.

"He hadn't played a lot of football and to tell the truth I didn't know him. We have players with enormous potential, though, and we still do not know their limits".

"He's become a star in France but when I was playing against him for City against Monaco he'd only played 10 matches", he started. "As long as we win, that's fine with me".

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Making the hotel feel like you're at home, pictures of families in the rooms, things to do in the hotel", he said. The Manchester City man hailed England's campaign in Russian Federation as "a pleasure".

Henry is one of the biggest legends to ever come out of France, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998 before following it up two years later with victory in the European Championships. Henry did not play in the 3-0 final victory for Les Bleus over Brazil. That particular action of the French midfielder unsuccessfully shooting at goal and the subsequent turnover that led to a mistake - a foul in this case - sum up his importance to this France team.

"France-England final - that's what I'm going with". They made steady progress through the group stage, exploded into life against Argentina in the last 16 and then produced a professional performance to see off Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

The Blues eased into the last four after overcoming South American giants Uruguay 2-0 thanks to two goals from Raphaël Varane and Antoine Griezmann in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.

"Thierry and I met when he was very young, and I was sure that he would go far", the French coach said of Henry.

The Golden Generation label seemed to hang like a millstone around the team's neck at previous tournaments, with quarter-final exits at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016. "They are a fantastic team".

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