Nations League

Belgium boss Martinez says 2018 World Cup defeat to France is ancient history

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez is trying to lead the country to its first piece of international silverware since the Olympic title in 1920.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez is trying to lead the country to its first piece of international silverware since the Olympic title in 1920. DIRK WAEM BELGA/AFP

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez ruled out any notions of vengeance for their 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat when they take on France on Thursday in the semi-final of the Nations League.

Advertising

The game three years ago ended in a 1-0 victory for France and a doughty defensive display from Didier Deschamps’ men that left Belgium goalkeeper Thibault Courtois complaining about France’s lack of flair.

France went on to crush Croatia 4-2 in the final in Moscow to lift their second world title.

Belgium overcame England in the third-place play-off match in St Petersburg.

“There’s no question of revenge,” said Martinez before the clash in Turin.

“We’re really looking forward to the game. France are the world champions and we want to get past them so we can get into the final.”

Faith

Deschamps hinted he would keep faith with the tactical system used in the 2-0 defeat of Finland in Lyon last month during qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Defenders Theo Hernandez and Léo Dubois made incisive forays up the left and right flanks respectively allowing Antoine Griezmann to pull the strings in midfield just behind Anthony Martial and Karim Benzema.

Griezmann, who bagged a brace in the game, and Benzema are likely to keep their places while Kylian Mbappé, who missed the tie through injury, is likely to replace Martial.

“In 2018, we were all fighting for the World Cup and last summer it was the European championships,” said Deschamps. 

“Now it is the Nations League and we want to get past Belgium and into the final.”

The winner of Thursday’s clash will take on Spain or the European champions Italy in the final on Sunday at the San Siro in Milan.

“It will be a tough match against France,” said Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel. “We’ve moved on from the defeat in the semis at the World Cup.

"This is a completely different game … and we don’t want to put ourselves under any extra stress. We have to remain calm because we are going to have to beat a good team to reach the final.”

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app