Olivier Giroud tells France teammates to prepare for World Cup ‘derby match’ against Belgium

France's Olivier Giroud ahead of the Belgium semi-final clash. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
Updated 09 July 2018
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Olivier Giroud tells France teammates to prepare for World Cup ‘derby match’ against Belgium

ST. PETERSBURG: Les Bleus beat Uruguay 2-0 in their quarterfinal to set up the last-four clash against neighbors Belgium, who beat Brazil 2-1 in their quarterfinal.
They go in as slight favorites but with so many of the players familiar to each other there is very little the two sides do not know about each other.
For Giroud that means one thing: It is going to be a tense battle, which will seem like a derby match.
“We don’t want to have them taking the mickey out of us. There is a big rivalry between France and Belgium, it’s like a derby match,” the France striker said.
And the presence of French World Cup winner Thierry Henry on the Belgian coaching staff as one of Roberto Martinez’s assistants adds extra spice to the occasion.
“It will be bizarre to have him up against us,” Giroud said.
“He is a living legend of French football. He has given so much to the France team and we have got a lot of respect for what he has done. But we’re not thinking about it too much, we’re going to be focused on the pitch and our game.”
“Of course I would prefer it if he were with us and he were giving me his advice, but we mustn’t be jealous.”
The slick Belgium side, which boasts the talents of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, are the only team to have won all their matches in Russia and are the top scorers, with 14 goals.
Confidence is sky-high after they beat Brazil in the quarterfinals but they will come up against formidable opponents in France as they try to reach their first World Cup final.
“The players have been working together extraordinarily well for many years, and they deserve to be exactly where they are today,” Martinez said.
“I feel that the most important aspect we worked on was the notion of being a team. Individual skills and talent are important, but in these tournaments, it’s absolutely necessary to play as a team.
“It’s a trip into the unknown. We’ve never been in such a situation, and that’s why we need our team spirit more than ever against France. We need to be the best version of ourselves.”
Kylian Mbappe was lethal in France’s 4-3 second-round win over Argentina, using his pace to devastating effect, but Martinez said his side would not make the mistake of focusing solely on one player.
“Both (teams) have the right mix of youth and experience and also lots of individual talent,” he said.
“We will need to anticipate (Mbappe) and be well-positioned. We need to defend spaces more than the player himself. We are not going to forget the others since France have a complete attacking pattern.
“These players need to play without fear to keep all options open. Like a voyage to the moon: We need to face it full of illusions.”


Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

Updated 16 December 2018
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Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

  • Shaqiri braces gives Reds deserved win over United at Anfield.
  • Mourinho's men well beaten as Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City ti return to top of the table.

LIVERPOOL: Two deflected Xherdan Shaqiri strikes handed Liverpool victory over Manchester United in the Premier League for the first time in nine attempts as Jurgen Klopp’s men moved back to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
United manager Jose Mourinho claimed ahead of the game that the league leaders have had luck on their side this season, but while there was fortune in substitute Shaqiri’s two goals in the final 17 minutes, the visitors did not deserve anything more than a fifth defeat of the season.
Liverpool leapfrogged Manchester City to finish the weekend where they started, a point clear at the top, and move a mammoth 19 clear of United, who remain in sixth and are now 11 points off the top four.
The contrasting form showed by both sides this season continued as United strained to keep a rampant Liverpool at bay and were only level for so long thanks to a huge error by home goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead before Jesse Lingard levelled when Alisson dropped a routine cross at the feet of the England international.
United had the ball in the net first on a rare foray forward but Romelu Lukaku was flagged offside despite not getting a touch to Ashley Young’s free-kick.
But Liverpool then laid siege to the visitors’ goal with David de Gea stretching to keep out a low drive from Roberto Firmino, Young clearing off the line and Fabinho firing wide from the edge of the box.
Only Manchester City have kept Klopp’s side from scoring in the Premier League this season and a United defense that has kept just one clean sheet in the league since September never looked capable of holding out like they had in their two previous visits to Anfield.
Mourinho’s men were finally breached when Mane controlled Fabinho’s chipped ball into the box on his chest and volleyed past the onrushing De Gea.
However, Liverpool’s momentum was punctured by an Alisson gift 12 minutes before the break.
The Brazilian was Liverpool’s hero with an injury-time save to secure the Reds’ place in the last 16 of the Champions League against Napoli on Tuesday.
But he spilled Lukaku’s simple cross into the path of the grateful Lingard to bundle the ball into an unguarded net.
The second half followed a similar pattern with one-way traffic toward the Kop as Liverpool sought the goal to take them back to the top of the table.
De Gea scrambled low to his left to palm Firmino’s prodded effort to safety, while Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk saw efforts deflected behind.
Jurgen Klopp turned to Shaqiri to unlock the United defense 20 minutes from time and the Swiss international needed just three to put Liverpool back in front.
De Gea did well to prevent Ander Herrera turning Mane’s cross into his own net, but the ball fell for Shaqiri and his effort cannoned off Young and in off the underside of the bar.
Seven minutes later, Shaqiri got lucky again when, this time on his favored left foot, his shot flicked off the diving Eric Bailly to leave De Gea helpless.